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Woman Smashes Front Door of Burning Home, Saves Lives of 18 People Inside

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Memorial Day is supposed to be a time to remember the brave warriors who paid the ultimate price for America’s freedom. In practice, though, it often amounts to little more than enjoying burgers, brats, and a big weekend.

But one Oregon woman showed all of the moxie of America’s most valiant soldiers on May 28. At around 5:30 a.m., Kelly Walrath was driving through a section of northeast Portland.

That was when she saw one of the most terrifying things any bystander could imagine: She watched as flames leapt up a residential multi-family property.

“You could see it start to jump into the upstairs windows,” she told KOIN. But rather than gawk or wait for emergency services, Walrath took matters into her own hands.

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“I could see flames coming from between the buildings, and as I was calling 911, I just went,” she said in an interview with KGW.

“(I) broke out the front window of the door and went in, pounded on the door to get people out and just started getting people out.”

Battering open a residence with an active fire racing up the outside is impressive enough. But saving people who struggle to understand what you’re saying to them adds a whole different layer of complication.

See, all of the families living in the building were Vietnamese. English wasn’t their native tongue.

“I just pounded on doors, getting people out, trying to work through a language barrier,” Walrath explained. “I’m trying to get people to come out and not go back in.”

In such dire circumstances, you might expect that even survivors might’ve faced health issues such as smoke inhalation or burns.

But thanks to Walrath’s quick action, 16 people escaped without harm.

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“It’s incredible she did this,” Portland Fire Captain Luisa Jones said. “It’s really wonderful.”

For her part, Walrath saw her actions as a basic civic duty, not anything special. “At least bang on doors, pull fire alarms if you see (a fire),” she said.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
Education
Wheaton College
Location
Florida
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Entertainment, Faith, Travel




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