Hero Neighbors Rescue Trapped Daughter After House Explodes and Catches on Fire, Killing Mother


Early Friday morning, a neighborhood in Berlin, Massachusetts, was rocked by an explosion as a local 2.5-story wooden frame home went up in flames.

Neighbors woke up, dogs were barking, and eventually fire crews from 10 different towns arrived to battle the two-alarm fire.

One woman, 79-year-old Judith Christensen, died. Her daughter, who is in her 50s, was trapped under a section of the collapsed roof as the fire raged.

Neighbors banded together and managed to rescue the daughter, risking their own lives to save hers.

“It was very heroic for them to be able to get in and lift that up and get her out from underneath that,” Berlin Fire Chief Michael McQuillen said, according to CBS News. “The fire was advancing very quickly at that point … the seconds matter. [It] definitely was a factor in saving her life and keeping her alive.”

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The woman was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. She was said to be in stable condition and remained hospitalized as of Friday night, according to WCVB-TV.

The explosion sent parts of the home flying, creating a large debris field — some pieces were even hanging from the trees as cleanup commenced. Some neighboring homes were slightly damaged by the flying shrapnel as well.

“It’s basically completely leveled,” McQuilln said of the home. “When it exploded it came down upon itself so there was nothing really standing except for a debris pile when we arrived.”

The victim’s name was not shared at first, but as the day progressed and the news got out, people expressed their sorrow over the loss of the kind local.

“They’re very active in town,” Mark Smith, a neighbor, said of the women. “Everybody knows them. Just top quality people.”

“A lot of the first responders know the occupants that live here, and that’s something that pulls at them,” McQuillen added. “Unfortunately, after this incident, those are the memories that they’ll take with them. It’s part of the PTSD that we talk about in emergency services.”

“Sad day in Berlin I know the woman who passed she had a heart of gold and always had a smile on her face and she would help anyone who needed help,” one person commented on a WCVB’s Facebook post about the explosion. “So I am going to go out today and do something nice for someone that is what she would of wanted and no tears just smiles just hard not to cry.”

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“She was the woman I called mom, she was the neighborhood mother and the sweetest kindest and most caring person I ever knew,” another commenter wrote. “I am completely saddened today beyond words.”

The cause of the explosion is currently under investigation.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking