by: Christine McCarthy
GARDNER, Mass. – A Gardner woman whose home burned down early Saturday morning is thanking a neighbor and two police officers with saving her life.
Karmen Forrester woke up to the screaming of her roommate and best friend, Shelby Hansen, who had escaped before realizing Forrester was home.
The flames rapidly spreading, Forrester’s only way out was a second-floor window, where she stood, trembling, too afraid to leap out. Hansen, their neighbor, Leo Gallant, and two police officers stood below her, begging her to jump, as firefighters had not yet arrived.
“They just kept saying, ‘Jump!’” Forrester said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know what you mean. I’m going to break every bone in my body.’”
Gallant, who minutes earlier had rushed into the burning building and helped Hansen evacuate, suddenly had an idea to help Forrester.
“I looked at the cop. ‘I got a ladder.’ He says, ‘Go grab it.’” Gallant said. “So I did the 100-yard dash, 100-yard dash (back). I was pooped by the time I got there, gave it to (the officer) and they got it done.”
The two police officers helped Forrester down the ladder to safety.
Acting Gardner Fire Lt. Dino Poudrette credited Gallant with saving Forrester’s life.
“It’s amazing,” Poudrette said. “Absolutely fantastic job. And there was a life saved today.”
Forrester and Hansen, who lost all their belongings in the fire, said they will forever be grateful for Gallant’s efforts.
“He’s so great,” Forrester said. “I’ve thanked him from the bottom of my heart.”
“He is totally a guardian angel,” Hansen added. “I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am so thankful.”
Gallant, however, is humble about his deed.
“Adrenaline kicks in,” Gallant said. “You just don’t even realize what you’re doing, I guess.”
Poudrette said the fire started in an enclosed porch on the first floor of the multifamily. Although the cause is still unclear, it does not appear suspicious.
First-floor resident Jesslyn Frantz is also grateful to be alive. She told Boston 25 News she and her three kids happened to be staying in Boston overnight when the fire broke out.
“The important part is that we weren’t here and that I have my kids,” Frantz said. “That’s all I care about. I don’t care about anything else.”
Hansen’ friend set up the following GoFundMe account to help support her and her son: https://www.gofundme.com/3pq07fc.
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