HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A 32-year-old woman continued to recover at the burn center at VCU Medical Center following a devastating fire last week.
Henrico Police dispatch supervisor Teri Wootton answered the victim’s plea for help at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, October 21.
“The panic that I heard, it was very obvious to me it was escalating pretty quickly,” Wootton told CBS 6 a week after the fire.
“The most shocking part of the call was how quickly everything happened,” Wootton recalled. “It was pretty terrifying. Within a minute she went from being able to talk to me and tell me what was going on to completely unresponsive.”
Wootton is heard on the 911 call obtained by CBS 6 ordering the victim into the bathroom or the furthest room from the flames.
“Ma’am if you have access to a bathtub or sink fill it in water and soak towels and cloths,” Wootton told the victim.
Henrico Fire Station 12 arrived within three minutes.
“We couldn’t access the door because the porch roof had collapsed,” Henrico Fire Lt. Dave Mylum stated. “We couldn’t get in the door and our next best option was to go through a window.”
Mylum used a thermal imaging camera to see through the darkness and smoke.
Firefighters fought their way inside the single-story apartment. They found the victim unconscious and face down in the bathroom.
“If her dog hadn’t been barking at what was going on she would’ve have even known there was a fire on her porch,” Wooton said.
The victim is expected to survive thanks to years of training and the seamless relay of information from the 911 dispatch center to firefighters on scene.
“We don’t do this to be heroes,” explained Firefighter Josh Windom. “It just so happened we did our jobs efficient enough to get her out and she’s alive and that’s the most important thing.”
The experts urge you to learn from this fire and implement changes in your own home.
“Have a plan in case that exit is blocked, use another way, a window, even if you’re on a second story getting out that way,” Windom said.
Check your smoke detectors and close the bedroom door when you sleep for an extra barrier between you and the flames.
The victim, Ji Hyun Lee, and just one of her three pets were able to escape the flames, according to a GoFundMe. The fundraiser was set up by Lee’s cousin to help her pay for medical bills and help get her back on her feet.
“She is on the ventilator due to damaged lungs and has 3rd degree burns from her shoulders to her lower thighs,” Diana Kim wrote. “She will be having surgery and the journey to recovery will be long, but we are very lucky that she survived this horrible accident!”
Firefighters Matt O'Donnell, Dan Reed, Sean Jones, Van Nelson, Brandon Coates, and Atom Amodeo assisted with the knock down of the flames and the rescue in addition to Henrico Fire Stations 19 and 22.
Fire investigators believe the fire may have started on the victim’s front porch, but the investigation continues.
Five additional residents were displaced from adjoining apartments due to smoke damage or because their electric meters had to be removed from the building, according to fire officials.
Firefighters stressed the importance of having a working smoke alarm.
"Lives are saved every day because of a smoke alarm," firefighters wrote. "Once you are outside of the home, never return inside, and meet the fire department with information about the occupants upon their arrival."