Updated Friday, April 29, 2011
Early Saturday morning, an unknown Good Samaritan saved the lives of three Graham residents who were sleeping unaware of an intense fire consuming their house.
The two-story structure in the 21000 block of Meridian Ave was totally gutted by the inferno, and owner Daniel Kloss, his partner Brenda Snell and her son Austin, aged 15, were rescued by the actions of a quick-thinking, caring gentleman – a Boeing employee on his way to work at the Renton assembly plant.
According to the Kloss’ next-door-neighbor, Delanae Lindstrom, the Good Samaritan was a middle-aged man who wore a Boeing employee lanyard and drove a tan-colored pick-up. Delanae told the Mountain News that he saw the flames as he drove past on Meridian and pulled onto the Kloss’ property.
Lindstrom says the Good Samaritan then began pounding on the Kloss’ front door and was able to arouse their dog Lexx, who started barking. At about the same time, according to later remarks by Graham Fire Battalion Chief Jay Espinosa, the smoke detectors were also triggered and the family was roused from their slumber.
“She (Ms Snell) heard the smoke detector but she thought it was her alarm clock,” Chief Espinosa told the Mountain News. “But when she heard Lexx barking, she knew it was serious and that she’d better get up.
Ms. Snell later said that Lexx had been sleeping on top of her bed and only roused after hearing the Boeing man pounding on the front door.
“I just want to hug that Boeing guy,” Brenda said. “We were just minutes from not making it.”
Graham Fire and Rescue officials said that the blaze began in an attached garage, located in the rear of the home, and the fire had been underway for a considerable period of time before the Good Samaritan stopped – and the barking and alarms began.
Graham firefighters said the home was fully involved when they arrived at approximately 5:10 am. Firefighter Ryan McAllister, along with Chief Espinosa, said they saw thick, black smoke pouring out of the master bedroom window in the front of the house.
“It was a violent, turbulent black cloud,” said Espinosa, “and that indicates it was at a pre-flash point.”
Espinosa and other Graham Fire officials explained that such conditions reveal the presence of enormous amounts of un-burned toxic gases, and when the cloud reaches its point of ignition it is extremely explosive.
“When it ignites, it’s unsurvivable,” said firefighter McAllister, “even for us.”
These conditions also indicated that a great deal of heat was in the upper portions of the bedrooms for a prolonged period of time, along with a lot of flame.
Espinosa said that the pre-flash conditions and the minimal structural remains of the blackened rafters indicate that the three individuals “had been sleeping under a lot fire before they woke up.”
Espinosa estimated that the three – all sleeping in the upstairs of the house directly adjacent to the garage – had fire above them for at least five-ten minutes.
“The alarms were unusually latent,” the chief said, because of the origin of the fire in the garage and where the alarms were placed in the house.
Adding to the drama, the door to the son’s bedroom was locked and Mr. Kloss had to break it down to rescue the youth.
“I just pulled him out of bed, rolled him up and carried him out,” Daniel Kloss later told reporters.
“They didn’t have a lot of time,” said Espinoza. “This could have been a real tragedy.”
Another indication of the intensity of the blaze and the lengthy duration before discovery is that the garage was already destroyed by the time GF&R units arrived.
“The whole back section was on the ground,” said McAllister.
In addition, Espinosa said the 2×6 rafters in the house only had an inch or two of thicknesses left by the time firefighters were able to engage the flames.
Addressing that issue, Assistant Graham Fire Chief Tony Judd told the Mountain News that the fire had been burning for so long that the structure was too unstable for firefighters to enter.
“We had to take a defensive position and attack the fire from outside the building,” Judd said. “That takes much longer to get the fire under control.”
Judd said that Graham firefighters spent over six hours battling the fire, and only began concluding their operations around noon.
“That’s a lot longer than usual,” said Judd. “It was tough fire.”
As for the Good Samaritan, no one knows exactly who is his but his actions are highly praised.
“He got the family out of the house and brought them over to us,” said Ms. Lindstrom. “He even gave Austin his coat, a Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket, because Austin didn’t have much on and it was cold.”
Daniel and Brenda were also wearing just their bed clothes, and Delanae and her husband Bjorn immediately began searching closets and drawers for suitable clothing.
“It was crazy, there was so much going on,” said Delanae, “the fire trucks, the running around…”
After a pause she added, “That Boeing guy is a real unnamed hero.”
Delanae said this hero is about six-foot tall, has dark hair and drives a full-sized truck.
“He came back later in the day to get his jacket, and I tried to get his name, but it was so chaotic I just can’t remember exactly what he name was,” said Delanae. “Ray, Rick, Chris…I just don’t know, and I looked specifically at his lanyard to make sure I got his name!”
As for the other hero, Lexx, a black Labrador retriever, he unfortunately perished in the fire.
“He was a vivacious, sweet dog,” said Delanae, “and we buried him Monday. He was a real cutie, just one year old. The cat is gone, too.”
Besides losing their home and pets, the Kloss’ also lost their business, an on-site child care center named Amazing Discoveries Daycare. Delanae said that the Kloss’ had about a dozen children enrolled in their program, but have been unable to contact all the families because their contact information burned in the fire.
Facing these many loses Brenda Kloss spoke briefly by phone Tuesday with the Mountain News.
“It’s been overwhelming,” she said, “but we’re all alive and that’s the important thing. I’m very grateful.”
Ms. Snell also extended a heart-felt ‘thank you’ to the community.
“So many people have helped us. The Red Cross was here right away and gave us a $500 card to buy new clothes,” she said.
“It’s been raining people,” added Danny Kloss. “People we don’t even know.”
“Even some of the day care families have offered to come stay with them until we decide what to do,” Brenda said, ” There’s been so many helping us – the firefighters, our church – I just want to say ‘Thank You’ to everyone.”
Later, neighbor Bjorn Lindstrom added, “Our real focus has been on Austin. He lost both of his pets and that’s been really traumatic for him.”
© 2011 The Mountain News WA
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