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More MS news articles for March 2004

Firefighters Honored For Saving Woman's Life

March 19, 2004
Keith Eldridge
Komo 1000 News

Connie Getchman sat in her wheelchair last October, trapped in her burning house, just seconds away from losing her life.

Thursday, she finally had the chance to personally thank the firefighters who rushed in and rescued her.

Getchman remembers that morning vividly. "I just said 'fire, fire' and I didn't even listen (to the 911 dispatcher) because I couldn't breathe."

A fire broke out in her living room that day, so she took refuge in her room. Getchman has Multiple Sclerosis and needs a wheelchair to get around. She was trapped.

The 911 dispatcher tried to keep her calm.

Dispatcher: "What's on fire?"

Getchman: "I don't know. I'm in my bedroom and my house is filled with smoke and my alarm is going off."

Dispatcher: "I want you to get outside, OK?"

Getchman: "I can't. I have MS."

Dispatcher: "OK."

Getchman: "Oh, God!"

Dispatcher: "I'm going to stay on the phone with you and we're getting there as quick as possible."

Getchman: "I'm going to open the window and breathe."

Dispatcher: "Okay, go open the window and set the phone down."

The next thing the dispatcher heard was Getchman's screams.

Firefighter Dan Borg knew his crew was in for a rescue.

"It kind of amps you up a little bit," he said. "You get a little more excited. It takes it up one more notch."

He also knew who the victim was. Borg had helped Connie Getchman before.

"Going down the hallway it's just very, very smoky. You can't see anything. We have flashlights on our helmet and we're basically going by 'feel.' Because I had been there before and knew the layout of the house, it worked out quite well," he explained.

"I just pulled back the blanket and I saw them and I said 'I'm in here and I can't walk,'" remembers Getchman. "'He said 'I know, cross your arms.'"

Borg and firefighter Shane Smith rushed Getchman to a waiting aid car. She was unhurt - but a few more minutes inside the house and the smoke would have killed her.

"If they hadn't known exactly where I was in the house, I wouldn't have made it," said Getchman.

Thursday, Getchman took part in a ceremony at the Federal Way Fire Training Center to honor firefighters Borg, Smith and driver Doug Moul.

"It's great, it's rewarding. It's a rewarding experience," said Smith.

"There's just no words for guys like that," said Getchman. "They are so wonderful."

The three firefighters received a Meritorious Unit Citation. Getchman says that's just a fancy way of saying they saved her life.

Copyright © 2004, Fisher Communications, Inc. (KOMO TV)