With 98-year-old Hazel Fuller trapped on a fire escape with
smoke billowing ... Firefighters recount dramatic rescue
Posted on 11/27/2010
By STEVE KOBAK
Norwalk Hour Staff Writer
A 24-year-old woman who was next door to the epicenter of last week's fire in building 23 of the Roodner Court housing complex had a lot to be thankful about this past Thanksgiving. Erica Wiggins, who has a nerve disorder, expressed gratitude to the firefighters who saved her and her 98-year-old grandmother Hazel Fuller from the fire. "I'm happy that they came when they did, and they were able to get me out and get my grandma out," Wiggins said. Norwalk Fire Department Deputy Chief Ed Prescott said fire crews had to act quickly to evacuate residents from the building, and extinguish the flames before the fire caused further damage. He said the fire could have increased in size and caused massive damage if it weren't for the efforts of the firefighters. "Everybody has a part in the game plan," he said. Wiggins said she was asleep in apartment 2F when the fire began at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 17 in the apartment next door. Smoke from the fire trapped Wiggins, Fuller and four of their family members in apartment 2F, preventing them from making their way to the stairwell. The family realized that firefighters had arrived on the scene after again attempting to brave the smoke and exit the building. Wiggins said a family member opened the door, and firefighters who were in the hallway yelled 'Shut the door. You can't come out this way.' "They got there really fast," she said. The thick, black smoke clouds flooding the stairs and the hallway inside building 23 forced firefighters to evacuate residents through the fire escape, according to firefighters' written reports on the incident. Firefighters smashed a window in the apartment that led to the fire escape and helped two adults and two children access the escape, but Fuller and Wiggins were physically unable to climb out the window and down the stairs on their own. As the firefighters prepared to help the women to safety, heavy smoke began to vent from apartment 2E's windows and cloud the fire escape. The smoke cleared from the fire escape moments later when the flames in apartment 2E began to wane, and the firefighters were finally able to get the two women out of the apartment. "I wouldn't have been able to get out of the window on my own," Wiggins said. The firefighters lent their breathing apparatuses to the women and carried them through the window and down the fire escape. Wiggins arrived downstairs before her grandmother, and she and her family became nervous about her grandmother's well-being. "Everyone was crying because they were worried about my grandmother, but the guy carried my grandma all the way down the fire escape," she said. In the end, Wiggins was treated at Norwalk Hospital because she suffered a seizure as well as some bruises during the incident. Fuller was treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. Apartment 2E was destroyed by the fire, and the intensity of the fire may have damaged the infrastructure of apartment 3E, according to Norwalk Housing . . . Authority officials. Wiggins said the hallway in the building still reeks of smoke, but the housing authority eradicated the smell of burnt smoke in her family's apartment. Prescott said all the firefighters who responded to the housing complex fire deserve credit for their hard work. However, the firefighters are humble about their accomplishments, according to Prescott. "They're just like 'Look, it's my job,'" he said.