It had been months since Bob Salutes took a training class on using a fire extinguisher. But that one course, offered at the Isles of Palmer Ranch subdivision, left a lasting impression. What he learned that day eventually helped him extinguish a fire in his neighbor’s home after he was the first person on the scene.
“He’s our guardian angel,” said his neighbor, Georgia O’Leary. “He responded immediately, without batting an eye.”
Salutes and O’Leary both took the fire-extinguisher course last summer. It was part of the county’s Community Emergency Response Team training, which prepares everyday citizens to help themselves during an emergency, in case rescue crews cannot reach them.
After the course, both neighbors were persuaded to purchase a fire extinguisher. For months, Salutes’ extinguisher sat in his home unused. Then, on May 2, he heard O’Leary pounding on his door.
“She told us her house was on fire,” said Salutes. “So I grabbed my fire extinguisher and ran next door.”
Salutes, and his wife, Carole, and O’Leary own separate villas under the same roof at the Isles of Palmer Ranch. O’Leary’s 90-year-old mother, Anne Bosnack, lives with her. When the fire broke out, O’Leary was too busy safely evacuating her mother, who uses a walker, and didn’t have time to employ her own fire extinguisher.
“My mother was shaking, and I was afraid she was going to fall,” said O’Leary.
Salutes went into his neighbor’s home and found the fire.
“I walked into the bedroom, and it was filled with smoke so black you couldn’t see,” Salutes said.
He made his way into the bathroom, which was where the fire started.
“There were flames on the countertop shooting up,” he said. “I sprayed the heck out of it, and it went out.”
Salutes’ wife then opened all the windows to let out the smoke.
The fire started when a glass candle holder containing a lit candle exploded and ignited some nearby towels.
Ironically, the candle was to be part of a celebratory going-away party for the Salutes, who were going back to their other home in Michigan the next day.
Firefighters from the new Palmer Ranch fire station, located next door to the Isles of Palmer Ranch, responded to O’Leary’s home within minutes.
“I also want to commend the fire department,” O’Leary said. “They were very helpful, very compassionate.”
Battalion Chief Matt Flynn, of the Sarasota County Fire Department, taught the fire-extinguisher training class. He said this is the first time that he’s aware that someone put into practice the things he learned in one of the seminars.
“That’s why we do it,” Flynn said. “If it saves one life, it’s worth it.”
Carole Salutes is thankful for the county for offering the classes and for her husband’s interest in attending.
“What would we have done if he didn’t go to that meeting and learn about fire extinguishers?” she asked.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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