Classmates rallied to support Alex and Moira Steele, whose home was gutted by fire.
WESTPORT — Firefighters responded to a house fire on Wadhams Road Feb. 8 after two teenagers escaped the flames.
The Westport alarm sounded about 1:30 a.m. Emergency response personnel were on scene at 530 Route 22 and remained there until a little after 5 a.m.
The fire began in the kitchen on the first floor of the home and the flames quickly spread through the house according the Essex County Fire Investigator Jack Hanby.
Around 1 a.m. 15-year old Alex Steele was awakened by the smell of smoke. He then went down to the next bedroom and woke is younger sister, Moira, who as a heavy sleeper didn’t smell the smoke. After he woke up Moira, he then smashed open his bedroom window and they climbed out onto the porch roof. Alex jumped to the ground and helped his sister from the ten foot high roof to the ground according to Hanby.
The landlord of the house, Jerry Sherman, lives next door, and said about 1 a.m. the teenagers came to his door and told him about the fire.
“The two teenage kids that were here came down to the house banging on the door,” Sherman said.
By the time the teenagers arrived at the house the flames had already engulfed the second floor, said Sherman.
“(The house) was gone before they got here. The flames were already coming out of the windows. I was on the phone calling 911 and I opened up the door, and you could see it,” Sherman said.
The Route 22 home was occupied by Kristen Carlson and her four children. At the time of the fire only Carlson’s two oldest children were at the residence. Sherman said before Carlson and her family moved into the home four years ago he had installed new smoke detectors. At the time of the fire Alex said the devices did not have any batteries.
Emergency personnel transported the teens to the Elizabethtown Community hospital to check for smoke inhalation.
Alex was treated for a broken ankle and Moira was treated for an injured ankle.
“The ambulance people came down and wanted to take them to the hospital. They were concerned that they had smoke inhalation,” Sherman said.
Westport Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim Westover said the structure is a complete loss, and the cause is still unknown as investigators could not enter the structure due to safety reasons.
“I was the second one here, and it was cooking something good when I showed up,” Westover said. “The investigators would not go in because it was structurally unsafe for them to be in there.”
Fire and emergency response were on scene from Westport, Willsboro, Wadhams, Whallonsburg, Reber, Elizabethtown and Moriah.
Hanby said for he was amazed by Alex’s heroic actions in saving his sister. Alex told Hanby, “I’m not a hero, I just love my sister.”
The Westport Fire Department plans to honor Alex’s life saving actions at a later date.