‘Gift of a life­time’ for 91st birth­day

Great-grand­mother cel­e­brates with Trexler­town fire­fight­ers who saved her life

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Ryan Kneller

El­iz­a­beth “Betty” Walsh has a lot to be thank­ful for th­ese days.

The Scran­ton na­tive, who re­turned to Penn­syl­va­nia last year af­ter liv­ing in Florida for 30 years, on Sun­day was sur­rounded by friends and fam­ily as she blew out her 91st birth­day can­dles at her daugh­ter’s home in Up­per Ma­cungie Town­ship.

Walsh en­joyed the cake and time with her fam­ily, in­clud­ing three of her 12 great-grand­chil­dren, but she ad­mits she had al­ready re­ceived the “gift of a life­time” a week ear­lier when two Trexler­town Fire Com­pany fire­fight­ers saved her life dur­ing an early morn­ing blaze that raced up a rear wall of Heather Glen Se­nior Liv­ing Fa­cil­ity in Up­per Ma­cungie.

Be­cause of the hec­tic sit­u­a­tion — fire of­fi­cials, po­lice and EMS worked to­gether to help evac­u­ate 82 res­i­dents and five staff mem­bers, Walsh didn’t get a chance to thank her res­cuers, who broke through a sec­ond­story win­dow and car­ried her down a lad­der to safety.

For­tu­nately, her fam­ily tracked down the men, Lts. Frank Kim­ble and Justin Ken­ny­brew, and in­vited them to the party. Their ap­pear­ance was the joy­ous oc­ca­sion’s ic­ing on the cake.

“They are he­roes — with­out a doubt,” Walsh said while fight­ing back tears. “They have their own fam­i­lies, yet they risk their lives to save an old woman like

me. I so ap­pre­ci­ate them.”

Walsh was awo­ken by the sound of drip­ping around 3 a.m. Sept. 22. She orig­i­nally thought it was rain com­ing through the win­dow, but she quickly re­al­ized that was not the case when she stepped out of bed and found her­self in wa­ter up to her an­kles.

Walsh phoned her daugh­ter, Mary Fal­tyn, and told her to come get her be­fore she checked the bath­room for clues to the wa­ter’s del­uge. Noth­ing.

“I then opened the front door and smoke hit me right in the face,” said Walsh, who’s voice was break­ing from the rec­ol­lec­tion. “I im­me­di­ately closed the door.”

Next, Walsh grabbed her hear­ing aids and rosary be­fore rac­ing to the room’s win­dow. She yelled down for help to Kim­ble and Ken­ny­brew, who told her they’d be right back.

“I thought they were leav­ing me, but they we were go­ing back to get a lad­der,” Walsh said. “It was prob­a­bly 5 sec­onds, but it felt like an eter­nity.”

The tag-team res­cue be­gan with Kim­ble knock­ing out the win­dow’s screen and div­ing into the room to lift Walsh out of the win­dow.

“I told [Kim­ble] I’m go­ing to die, and he said, ‘Not to­day!’” she re­called.

Ken­ny­brew then grabbed Walsh “like a rag doll,” car­ry­ing her down the lad­der while telling her to hug him, Walsh said.

“To which I replied, ‘What? Your wife doesn’t hug you enough?’” Walsh said with a big smile.

Walsh was car­ried to a bench, cov­ered in blan­kets and trans­ported to Trexler­town Fire Com­pany, where she was re­united with fam­ily.

“It was ter­ri­fy­ing,” she said. “I would never want my worst en­emy to ex­pe­ri­ence what I did that morn­ing.”

Kim­ble and Ken­ny­brew, who also car­ried down other Heather Glen res­i­dents, in­clud­ing a 101-year-old woman, were happy to re­con­nect with Walsh un­der bet­ter cir­cum­stances.

The men, who don’t con­sider them­selves he­roes, on Sun­day helped her out of a chair to give her a hug.

“They lifted you once and they can do it again,” Fal­tyn joked.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” Walsh said with tears in her eyes.

“You don’t have to,” Ken­ny­brew quipped.

Kim­ble, who has been with Trexler­town Fire Com­pany for nearly five years, and Ken­ny­brew, who has been with it for three, never ex­pe­ri­enced a res­cue of that mag­ni­tude, they say.

They give credit to other re­spond­ing fire com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Fo­gelsville and Up­per Ma­cungie, for help­ing safe­guard the res­i­dents.

“It was def­i­nitely a first for a lot of us,” Ken­ny­brew said. “We’ve trained for it, but we’ve never done some­thing like that for real un­til last week­end.”

The three-alarm fire, which re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ap­peared to have started out­side the build­ing and spread to the roof, fire of­fi­cials said.

Au­thor­i­ties said two fire­fight­ers suf­fered mi­nor in­juries, but were re­leased from the hospi­tal that af­ter­noon, and six res­i­dents were taken to area hos­pi­tals as a pre­cau­tion.

Walsh is now liv­ing at Sa­cred Heart Se­nior Liv­ing fa­cil­ity in Cen­ter Val­ley.

“All she wanted for her birth­day was to have you here,” Fal­tyn said. “You guys gave us our mother back for her birth­day.”

“They have their own fam­i­lies yet they risk their lives to save an old woman like me. I so ap­pre­ci­ate them.” — El­iz­a­beth “Betty” Walsh

DAVID GAR­RETT/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Trexler­town fire Lt. Justin Ken­ny­brew, left, and Lt. Frank Kim­ble are thanked by El­iz­a­beth Walsh at her 91st birth­day party. Walsh was pulled from a win­dow and saved by fire­fight­ers from an early morn­ing fire at Heather Glen Se­nior Liv­ing on Sept. 22.

DAVID GAR­RETT/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Fire Lt. Justin Ken­ny­brew is thanked on El­iz­a­beth Walsh’s 91st birth­day. Walsh was pulled from a win­dow and saved by Trexler­town fire­fight­ers Ken­ny­brew and Lt. Frank Kim­ble from an early morn­ing fire at Heather Glen Se­nior Liv­ing on Sept. 22.

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