ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – A routine trip to the gas station for off-duty firefighter Kimberly Rauch turned into a lifesaving rescue.
Rauch has been a firefighter for the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Fire Department since July. She is a civilian state employee who, before her current position, suited up for the Atchison Fire Department in Kansas for two years.
On the morning of Nov. 15, as she was heading to the gas station in the south end of St. Joseph, she saw smoke billowing out of the top of a house.
As she drove by, she could hear a girl screaming. Rauch parked in the neighbor’s driveway and ran toward the sound.
As she turned the corner from where the commotion was coming from, she saw a girl banging on a glass sliding door.
When Rauch approached the door, she could see through a smoke-filled corridor the hands of a man who had collapsed on the floor.
A man who was also passing by came around the corner, and together
they picked up some lawn furniture and broke the window of the door.
Smoke filled the room, so Rauch got on the floor and crawled to the collapsed man, got underneath his arms and dragged him to safety.
“He wasn’t doing so hot, that’s for sure,” Rauch said. “He had busted his head where he had fell and hit the ground, but we dragged him back and rolled him over.”
Black soot had formed around his mouth from all the smoke he had inhaled, said Rauch. He stared at her with a vacant look. “That’s not a good sign,” Rauch said. “I didn’t know if he was going to make it.”
When they rolled him on his side in the fresh air, he started to come around. He still couldn’t move, but Rauch and the other bystander carried him farther from the house.
By this time, another young man came around the house with cuts on his arms and neck from where he broke the window to allow him to help the girl escape the fire from the second floor. Rauch treated his injuries as best she could.
Shortly after, an ambulance arrived and took the man to the hospital.
The St. Joseph Fire Department arrived, and Rauch left before the fire was even out. Her work was done, so she filled up her tank with gas and carried on with her day.
One of the firefighters on the scene later contacted Rauch and said they had to insert a tube into the man’s airway on the way to the hospital due to swelling from smoke inhalation. Had he been trapped in the house much longer, that might not have been possible.
A few days later, she ran into the daughter at a gas station, who told Rauch her father was moved to the University of Kansas Medical Center but was doing well.
“Right place at the right time, I guess. I don’t know,” Rauch said.
While reflecting on her decision to become a firefighter, Rauch said she had always wanted to help people.
“It’s more satisfying for me to help someone than anything else,” Rauch said. “And then, of course, the adrenaline. I like the challenge. People run away from it, and we go to it. I’m just glad he’s alive.”