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Teen Risks Life To Pull Siblings and Dog from One of Worst House Fires in Town's History

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Had 20-year-old Christine Sentman not returned home on a bitterly cold winter day in January, her little sister would probably not be alive.

Sentman recalled unloading groceries from the car when she heard a noise, and saw the family’s Christmas tree engulfed in flames.

The fire began to devour the home, and Sentman immediately ran down to the basement. She ordered her 11-year-old sister, Chloe, and Chloe’s two friends, out of the house.

Temperatures that day were close to 20-below zero, so Sentman helped the girls take shelter at a neighbor’s house as they called the fire department.

Then, she went back inside.

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Sentman found the family’s black lab, Layla, trapped inside the home. Like a scene from a thriller movie, Sentman couldn’t escape, as the mounting pressure inside the home forced the front door closed.

Then, a window exploded.



As the pressure inside the home was relieved, Sentman was able to open the front door and rush outside.

Adrenaline racing through her veins, she soon found herself refusing paramedic care while preoccupied with trying to find more ways to help.

But soon, Sentman realized that she really did need treatment.

“I started throwing up soot and having a hard time breathing,” Sentman said. “My airways were closing.”

The ordeal left Sentman in the hospital, then carrying an oxygen tank around for weeks as her body healed.

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Months later, on Aug. 22, Sentman was honored with the Fire Chief’s Award for her bravery on that day.

“She did an outstanding job,” Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis said. “I consider her a hero because of what she did.”

“She actually saved the life of her sister, her two friends and the 80-pound dog,” Puknaitis said.

“You are a true hero and you are a testament to others in the community to when you see that somebody needs help, certainly call 911, but if you can take action, go ahead and do that,” Puknaitis said.

The fire, while traumatizing, has further ignited Sentman’s passion to finish her nursing degree at Bradley University.

Realizing she had the capacity to “influence an outcome,” Sentman said, was inspiring.

“The fire chief said if I wasn’t there and hadn’t got to the basement door, the girls wouldn’t have gotten out,” Sentman said.

Sentman’s natural ability to remain calm in an emergency will likely translate into very strong nursing skills.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
Birthplace
Page, Arizona
Education
Bachelor of Science in Music Education
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Lifestyle & Human Interest




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