As we pulled into East St. Louis on Saturday, PJ said, “Oh, I thought that house was on fire, but I guess someone is just burning trash.” Upon further inspection we both realized that the house was indeed on fire. As we pulled up to the house, PJ said that she thought that an older man lived there. I began to call 911 when we saw a fire truck a block away. “Oh thank goodness”, we both exclaimed, as the fire truck went the wrong way. So, I called 911 and told them there was a house fire at 13th and Boismenue. She said that she already had fire trucks on the way. I told her that they made a wrong turn and the the fire was getting bigger.
We waited for about 10 minutes, all the while PJ was honking her horn to try to wake the man up if he was inside. The neighbor came out and told us that he definitely lives there still. PJ could not sit in the car any longer. At this point the fire had moved from the front and side porch to the inside of the house. We could feel the heat inside of the car. PJ ran out to knock on his window. She yelled, “Your house is on fire!”, as an explosion sent her running back to the car. She could hear him making noise and yelling inside.
It had been 15 minutes since my initial phone call, and still no fire trucks. At this point, it has completely taken over the house. I frantically called 911 again. The same lady answered, nonchalantly, “911, what’s your emergency.” With panic I told her that the fire trucks had still not arrived and there is someone in the house and the entire house is on fire now. She asked me to spell the street. After doing so, I paused and said, “So someone will be coming?”
She hung up on me.
PJ and I pulled around to the other side of the house and thankfully the man somehow made it out. He was empty handed. Not able to grab any personal belongings. At this point the fire was so hot that we could not even stay parked in the street. I told the man he needed to move away from his house.
He turned to me and said with anger and fear, “I am homeless now!” His eyes were crazy with grief. I said, “I’m sorry.” With all of that he actually turned to me and said, “That’s okay.” Almost as if he felt bad for yelling I’m homeless.
The fire trucks finally showed up about 20 minutes after my original phone call. They put the fire out in 3 minutes.
Had that 911 dispatcher listened to me in the first place this man would still have a home.
Had PJ not honked her horn incessantly and run up to the house to yell for the man, he may not have woken up to get out of his house.
It looked to us that since the fire was in two different spots on the house to begin with that someone had to of set it. If this man does not have home owners, I am sure there will be no investigation. He will be left with nothing.
I have a phone call into the fire station. I am going to try to find his information and see if we can’t raise some money for this man. I don’t want to put anything together unless I know for sure we will be able to find him.
UPDATE: News Channel 4 was investigating this and just notified me of the man’s name. They spoke to him and he asked them to thank us, but did not want to give any further contact info. He said that PJ’s horn did wake him. The Red Cross put him up in a motel. I am going to see if we can figure out some way to donate through the Red Cross if anyone is interested in giving a helping hand. Stay tuned again.