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June 25, 2005

Child alerts deaf parents to house fire

From: Alton Telegraph - Alton,IL,USA - Jun 25, 2005

NICOLE THORP , For The Telegraph

ALTON -- An interpreter was called in Friday to communicate with a hearing-impaired couple roused from a house fire by their 3-year-old son.

A neighbor taking his morning walk saw fire coming from the living room air-conditioning unit of the home of David and Lynn Sabin, in the 3400 block of Milton Drive, and called the police. Inside, the couple's son, Joseph, saw the fire and woke up his parents.

Because of the difficulty firefighters had in communicating with the 42-year-old father and the 44-year-old mother, the department called IMPACT, an Alton-based non-profit advocacy group serving those with disabilities. The agency sent interpreter Angeline Exton to the scene to help out.

"She was very helpful -- and I stress very," Assistant Chief Tom Chappell said. "We were able to communicate through her and help the family get started with their insurance claim."

Chappell was on the scene trying to talk to the residents but said it was quite the task.

"It was a first-time experience for me. It was very difficult for me to communicate with them," he said.

The fire department received the call at 7:40 a.m.

"Before we even got on the street we could see a column of smoke," he said. "There was fire coming from two windows and the front door."

When firefighters arrived, Chappell said they entered the house through the kitchen door and began fighting the fire from there into the living room.

"The fire got up into attic so we had to cut a hole in the roof and ventilate the house," he said.

Chappell said the fire originated under the air-conditioning unit in the living room.

"They (the residents) stored things on top of the power cord for the air conditioner, which had probably been running continuously. Because of the things on the cord, heat was being generated, which started the fire," he said.

Chappell estimated about $40,000 worth of damage was done to the two-bedroom frame house and the family's belongings.

"They have nothing now. At this point they are without clothing and their belongings," he said.

The family was given a voucher for a one-night stay at the Alton Comfort Inn, and Chappell said he gave them the number for the Red Cross to see if they could get additional help.

The last fire department unit was done with the fire at 10:20 a.m., and Chappell said the 13 firefighters on the scene worked smart and quick to put out the fire.

"They did an awesome job. They made a quick attack and were able to save the structure," he said. "I'm just glad no one was hurt."

Lynn Sabin, who was calm at the scene, said she was concerned about moving her salvageable goods to storage. She communicated by writing notes on her notepad.

"I worry about my clothes," she wrote.

She said the couple had lived in the house for 18 years.

©The Telegraph 2005