Neighbors save two girls from fire


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Neighbors came to the rescue of two little girls trapped in a house fire before firefighters could arrive.

It started as a kitchen fire in one of the units in the Westridge Townhomes complex off 12th St. SW in Forest Lake around 5:30 p.m. Friday night.

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A family of 6 lived in the unit, but only two children were home when the fire started.

Melissa Wolter lives next door to the family in the Westridge complex.

“I heard the faint yell for help, came downstairs, and saw the older little girl hanging from the window,” said Wolter.

Gena Katris, who was looking after her grandchildren in the same townhome complex, also heard the commotion.

Both women ran outside when they heard a child screaming for help and found the 10-year-old girl hanging out a second-floor window.

“You could tell that her breath was leaving her, she was hanging by her elbows, she wasn’t doing well at that time,” said Wolter.

Both women encouraged her to jump from the window. They were prepared to catch her but Katris said the girl hesitated to leave her younger sister who was still in the second-floor bedroom.

“It was insane, I’d never seen that and I just had so much adrenaline. I just wanted her to be safe,” said Katris.

The girl had brought her younger sister and dog into the bedroom thinking it was the safest option when the kitchen caught fire.

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“The older girl, when it caught on fire, she thought by barricading herself it would stop the fire from getting into the room, she was a fast thinker, she was trying,” said Wolter.

Eventually, the older girl jumped into Wolter’s arms.

“My body is feeling it today, but I didn’t feel it that day, the adrenaline is too high,” said Wolter.

Then Wolter and another neighbor went inside the burning home and retrieved the other girl and dog from the second-floor bedroom.

Shortly after, they say Forest Lake Fire and Rescue showed up.

“By the time they got here, we had everybody out already,” said Wolter.

While the exterior of the home is intact and the neighbors’ homes were not impacted, everything inside the townhome is a loss.

However, everyone in this family is still alive thanks to the help of neighbors.

“If it wasn’t for us up here, I don’t think they’d be here today,” said Wolter.

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A GoFundME account was created for the family to recover what was lost and to help pay for the hospital treatment of the two girls and their dog.