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October 16, 2002

Man helps Boise family escape burning house

Oct. 16, 2002

Good Samaritan runs through flames to save woman, child

A stranger driving on South Cole Road just after 3 a.m. Tuesday helped a hearing-impaired woman and her two children escape from their upstairs bedrooms as fire engulfed their home in the 4300 block of Cochees Way.

The fire started on the back porch of Rob and Virginia Kimbro´s home, according to Capt. Jeff Higgins, Engine 6 Battalion 2. Although the cause has not been determined, investigators do not believe it is suspicious, Higgins said.

Tom Humphrey lives on Arrowhead Way, about 1/2 mile south of the Kimbro home. A friend was driving Humphrey home from work when they noticed flames and smoke pouring from a house east of South Cole.

“I thought it was probably too late,” Humphrey said.

But they drove to the site of the fire and realized the neighbors were asleep and that emergency crews hadn´t been contacted.

As Humphrey called 911 from his cell phone, his friend, Dawn Ben-Ezra, pounded on the front door.

“We were yelling as loud as we could,” Humphrey said.

Jason Kimbro, 13, answered the door. Humphrey and Ben-Ezra told him his house was on fire and quickly asked who else was in the house.

The teen pointed up the stairs, where his 9-year-old sister, Alanna, and their mother, Virginia, were sleeping.

Humphrey ran up the stairs and into the path of dense smoke and flames.

“It was just one big sheet of fire,” he said. “It makes me gulp thinking about it now, but at the time I was just pumped full of adrenaline.”

He pounded on Alanna´s bedroom door, and the startled girl woke up immediately.

“I was like, ´What are you doing?´ ” Alanna recalled later Tuesday.

Humphrey told her to go downstairs and outside without stopping for keepsakes along the way. Then he moved to Virginia´s room and kicked open the locked door. Virginia, who describes herself as deaf, doesn´t wear her hearing aid while she sleeps and couldn´t hear the commotion in the house. She awoke to see Humphrey in her smoke-filled bedroom.

Shock at seeing a strange man in her room soon turned to a different kind of fear. Surrounded by smoke, she realized her children might have died in the blaze while she was asleep.

“At first she was disoriented, and then she said, ´I´ve killed my kids,´ ” Humphrey said. “I told her they were downstairs and safe.”

Humphrey was impressed by the composure the Kimbro children displayed during the chaos.

“Those kids really handled it well,” he said. “He was calm and cool, and she was a little trooper.”

Rob Kimbro was on a business trip to Vancouver, Wash., when he was contacted by police and told about the fire just before 5 a.m. Police told him that his family escaped unharmed because of a good Samaritan. He immediately began the 6 1/2 -hour drive home and was thrilled to be reunited with his family.

And he was eager to thank the man who saved his family.

“He got my wife and children out,” Kimbro said. “Most people don´t like to get involved, but there are some people out there who will do that.”

Humphrey, who owns The Body Shop strip club at Orchard and Emerald streets, had asked a friend for a ride home because he had a flat tire and had to leave his car at work. He credits Ben-Ezra for driving to the home despite their hunch that emergency crews were already there.

He doesn´t think the family, especially Virginia, would have escaped the blaze without his help because the smoke was too overpowering.

“She would have been dead very soon,” he said. “There was smoke all through her room.”

The master bedroom, where Virginia was sleeping, is directly above the back porch where the fire originated.

Virginia said Tuesday afternoon that she is grateful for Humphrey´s bravery. Rather than asking for help replacing the belongings her family lost in the fire, Virginia said she hoped someone could replace Humphrey´s glasses. They fell off while he was trying to kick in her bedroom door, and he hasn´t seen them since.

“I definitely want to see him again to say thank you,” she said.

Five fire engines and two trucks responded to the blaze and had it extinguished within about 15 minutes, Higgins said. One firefighter fell through the second-story doorway where a deck had burned away. He landed on the ground below but was uninjured and kept working. No injuries were reported, Higgins said.

The Kimbro family is staying at a Boise hotel. They received vouchers for the hotel and for groceries from The American Red Cross of Greater Idaho. The family pets, two birds, also escaped the blaze unharmed and are staying with neighbors until the family can move home.

Rob Kimbro said it might take several months to repair the fire-damaged home, but that they would return to live in the house again.

“We have very good neighbors,” he said.

© 2002 The Idaho Statesman