CANADA - A Toronto woman is being considered for a fire service award after she rescued a 19-year-old disabled woman and the woman's brother from a house fire in the city's northwest yesterday.
Natalia Harispuru, 29, a special education teacher at Msgr. John Corrigan Catholic School, was in the school's office at 4 p.m. Monday when a colleague burst into the room and announced that a house across the street was on fire.
Together with principal Blanka Matulic, education assistant Anna Marincola, and day care supervisor Karen Leroux, Harispuru raced across the street where smoke and flames could be seen pouring out from the backyard of a neighbouring home.
"I jumped up onto the fence to see over, and saw that fire had engulfed the entire back of the house. There was smoke and flames everywhere," Harispuru said. "Then I heard the brother yelling 'Help! Help!'"
Harispuru and colleagues then ran around the front of the house, and while some ran to phone 9-1-1 and warn neighbours to evacuate, Harispuru went to the front door and kicked it in.
Harispuru rushed in, found the two injured people and pulled/carried them to safety. The female was on the top floor of the semi-detached home when the fire started and her brother, who is in his early 20s, was on the main floor.
"She put herself in a life-threatening situation to assist with this rescue," Toronto Fire Capt. Mike Strapko said. "She put her life in peril and went above and beyond. There's nothing official, no paper work yet, but the firefighters have been talking and she could be recognized with a civilian citation at our annual Rescue and Merit Awards."
"There was heavy smoke and a lot of heat," Mike Strapko said, explaining the severity of the fire. "Even the fire alarm was mostly melted, the kitchen was completely gutted and the fire spread throughout the attic."
Still suffering a pounding headache, sore chest and raspy voice, Harispuru has taken the rest of this week off to recover. The reluctant hero was quick to credit her co-workers for their lifesaving teamwork today.
"I want to stress that even though I was the one crazy enough to go into the house, it was a team effort. Being such a small school, it really does feel like a family and we always work together. We wouldn't have been successful without everyone's cooperation," she said.
"Everyone's calling me a hero, but I don't see it that way. I saw the need, I was in the right place at the right time, and I had a lot of help. I was glad to help the family."
"They would have died for certain had she not been there," said one of the firemen on the scene.
PERSONAL NOTE: Normally I don't cover topics like this, but I found it interesting that she just kicked in the door and saved them both from the fire.