Firefighters attempting to put out fire at apartment building

Hero Firefighters Rescue Couple from Burning Apartment

Rescued man hugs firefighter at fire station

Sandra Kelly and Andres Soto meet with Raleigh firefighters.

“I asked God to send us an angel and he sent us these firefighters,” Sandra Kelly said as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Two weeks after a fire destroyed the apartment she and her husband called home, the couple was determined to meet the firefighters who save them.

Firefighter Dylan Short described meeting the couple as emotional, pointing out it’s rare to see folks after they leave a fire scene. 

“It’s a blessing to meet them and see them. I’m so thankful we got them out. It was a team effort for sure,” said Short.

Firefighters approach staircase in building fire

Apartment fire on Water Oak Drive.

The Rescue

“My mom described the hopelessness she felt sitting in that bathroom. She told me when she heard the firefighters coming, it was like her soul came back to her body. She thought she was going to die, but the firefighters were like a ray of hope in a tunnel of darkness.”

This is how Andres Soto the younger describes his parents’ experience in a recent apartment fire. Raleigh firefighters from Engines 19 and 15, along with Ladder 15, rescued Sandra Kelly and Andres Soto from a burning apartment on Water Oak Drive. The Raleigh couple had barricaded themselves in the bathroom and called 911.

Earlier, when they had opened the door of their second-story apartment, they were hit with a wall of smoke. Son Andres, 22, said that his father looked out to the porch and saw it was on fire.

When the couple was huddling in the bathroom, they heard the firefighters responding to the call. They banged on the door and screamed to get the rescuers’ attention. 

Firefighters sprayed the couple’s feet with water to keep the flames at bay and one of the firefighters wrapped his coat around Kelly.

The couple spent a few days in the hospital after the fire. “I can’t express my appreciation enough for saving my parents. Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. The firefighters are heroes,” said son Andres.

‘Wall of Fire’

Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Siebel described the scene as a “wall of fire on two floors.”

“This was probably one of the most dramatic rescues I have witnessed in my 26 years with RFD, especially with the amount of fire all three initial companies had to push through to make it up the stairwell to the second-floor apartment. Every firefighter worked hard and never quit to extinguish the fire with challenging construction layout.”

(Editor’s Note: Kelly and Soto lost everything in the fire. Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help.)



Julia Milstead
Public Information Officer

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