AMHERST – Kiley Bickerton and Ben Bacon don’t believe they did anything others wouldn’t have done when faced with a similar situation.
The two employees with Blakeney’s Plumbing and Heating were driving between worksites on Wednesday afternoon when they saw smoke coming from an Amherst home. They stopped to make sure everyone was OK, but ended up helping a woman escape from the burning building.
“We just wanted to make sure everyone was out and safe,” Bickerton said. “There was a guy there who was calling 911 and we figured everyone was out. We were just getting to leave when we heard a knocking sound coming from the window on the second floor.”
When they looked up they saw a woman in the upstairs window. She had managed to get the window open and they could see smoke pouring from of its corner.
“We knew we had to do something to help her,” Bacon said.
The two found a ladder at a neighbour’s place and quickly placed it against the side of the building as thick black smoke poured from the building. Bickerton climbed to the window while Bacon stayed on the ground to keep the ladder steady.
When Bickerton got to the top, he said the woman at first wasn’t too crazy about climbing out of the window. But with a little coaxing she climbed onto the ladder and Bickerton helped her down, making sure she didn’t fall off the side or lose her grip.
“It went very well once I got her out of the window and onto the ladder,” Bickerton said.
Bacon said the rescue went smoothly, although a window at the bottom popped from the heat and fire just as Bickerton and the woman were reaching the bottom.
From there, they lost track of the woman but believed her to be fine.
It was at that time that members of the Amherst Fire Department were arriving on the scene to battle the fire that extensively damaged the three-unit home near Spring Street Academy.
The owner of the company, Kevin Blakeney, said he’s not surprised with what Bacon and Bickerton did because that the type of guys they are.
“I think it’s great. It’s sort of our job description in that we’re always helping others,” Blakeney said. “That’s who they are. They’re always willing to step in and help someone.”
Fire chief Greg Jones said he can’t promote people placing themselves in danger, but credits Bickerton and Bacon for preventing a tragedy.
“It’s good that they stopped to help out. We don’t promote people doing that unless they really have to but that situation was pretty dire because the fire was spreading so quickly,” Jones said. “The woman’s only option was out the window.”
He said another man going by in a truck stopped to help and Bickerton and Bacon were able to lift the ladder to the window from the back of the truck.
“It could’ve been a much different story,” he said.
Jones said the fire remains under investigation but it’s not suspicious in nature. One person was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation while another was treated for burns.
The chief credited his firefighters for bringing the fire under control and preventing its spread to nearby homes, despite strong winds.
“Anyone who lives in Amherst know how the wind tends to blow at that time almost every day. They worked to get the fire out and leave the building standing to help with our investigation, but they also worked hard to keep it from spreading to other buildings in the area,” the chief said.
Amherst town councilor Jason Blanch lives next door to the damaged home and he’s so thankful for the Amherst Fire Department.
“If they hadn’t responded the way they did I probably would’ve lost my house,” said Blanch. “As a member of council I hear about the training they do, but this gives me a whole new appreciation of every one of them. We are so fortunate to have a highly trained and highly skilled fire department.”