‘Gift of a lifetime’ for 91st birthday
Great-grandmother celebrates with Trexlertown firefighters who saved her life
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
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.
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.