HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Theo Blankenship moved into his new apartment three weeks ago. Friday afternoon, he gathered what’s left and moving out.
“Pretty much everything left that wasn’t soaked or destroyed,” Blankenship said as he loaded a trailer full of his belongings.
Smoke began to fill the 21-year-old’s apartment on Horrigan Court in Henrico’s West End just after midnight on Thursday.
“I chucked my cat out of the apartment and I heard somebody yelling from inside,” Blankenship recalled.
As flames grew outside, Henrico Fire said Blankenship’s neighbor was trapped inside her apartment and she called 911.
“I heard, ‘Somebody help!’ So, I started yelling for my neighbors and everything like, ‘Where are you?’” Blankenship remembered. “I ran around to one side and that’s when everything was engulfed in fire and nobody could get by.”
Investigators said the 911 dispatchers instructed the woman into a room farthest away from the flames.
“911 Dispatch efforts played a significant role in directing the caller to a sheltered location and assisted fire crews with successful location of the caller,” according to a press release.
They said the woman fell unconscious as Station 12 firefighters raced to the complex.
“There was a few [firefighters] that ran in there and all I remember was they were putting her in a CHAR bag I believe to keep her warm and safe and stable,” Blankenship stated.
“Fire crews were able to locate the caller trapped in the bathroom of the apartment and removed the patient outside to safety. Fire crews made an initial exterior fire attack for knockdown of the fire, then transitioned to an interior fire attack,” the Henrico Fire spokesperson wrote.
Paramedics rushed the woman to the hospital where she remains in the ICU but is expected to survive. Sadly, her two cats and a dog died in the fire.
Five additional residents were displaced from adjoining apartments due to smoke damage and/or power meters pulled by VA power to the building. Fire Department personnel worked with the families to meet all the families’ post incident needs, according to a press release.
As Blankenship salvages what he can, he said he’s grateful no one else was hurt.
“Only thing I have to worry about is replacing the things that I lost and that’s a small price to pay for being okay,” he said.
Blankenship has renter’s insurance and is staying in a hotel until his apartment complex can find him another unit to rent.
The cause and origin of the fire is under investigation. Blankenship said investigators told him it may have started outside on a porch.
Henrico Fire reminds everyone the value of having working smoke alarms in all homes. Lives are saved every day because of a smoke alarm. Once you are outside of the home, never return inside, and meet the fire department with information about the occupants upon their arrival.
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