Woman passing by saves dogs from burning house on MLK

When Kim Swanson saw two dogs pressing their faces against the front window of a burning house, she didn’t think. She acted.

“I just went,” she said. Smoke was flowing out the tops of the windows and out the gutters as she and her partner Karen Swanson-Jacobs started pounding on doors and windows trying to find a way in.

Kim Swanson and Karen Swanson-Jacobs

Kim was able to get one dog out of the house near MLK and Pine, but the other ran away. That’s when she took off her outer shirt, grabbed the garden hose and soaked the shirt. Holding the shirt to her face to breathe, she broke a latch to a window and went in.

“I was terribly scared there were kids or somebody in there asleep,” she said. She found the second dog and handed it through the window to Karen.

Then Kim went through the house, checking in closets and under beds. “I heard people sometimes hide in the closet during a fire,” she said. So she checked them twice.

She got a little turned around in the smokey house, and when she finally made her way to the front door, firefighters were there to meet her.

The fire appeared to be confined to the attic or roof of the home, and nobody was home except the dogs.

Sitting on the porch next door to the house that caught fire shortly after firefighters extinguished the flames, Kim could hardly believe what she had just been through.

“It doesn’t seem real,” she said with a slight rasp in her voice from minor smoke inhalation she got while inside. “I am not an impulsive person, I am a very logical person.”

But with the dogs safe in the neighbor’s basement, Kim coughed into her still-damp shirt clutched in her hands.

“I would do it again in a second.”

Original story:

The response to a reported attic fire in a single family home in the 1500 block of MLK has closed the major arterial to traffic Sunday night.

Early reports are that the fire was contained to the attic and there are no injuries but we’re still confirming details.

0 thoughts on “Woman passing by saves dogs from burning house on MLK

  1. What a wonderfully brave couple, and though their actions seem to have been pure and natural to them, I can only hope that their actions catch the attention of our local news channel, and gets a bit of recognition for these two.

    Thumbs up to these two heros and to our always respected local fire department team

  2. I love hearing stories like these. My hat is off to these two women who acted with bravery and compassion! Those are two lucky dogs (and lucky dog owners).

  3. You truly are hero’s! Losing a house or belongings is hard enough. You saved these folks from so much potential heart ache.

  4. It is nice to see when humans act in a selfless manner worthy of the sacrifices our faithful canine friends would undoubtedly make for us. I am impressed by the courage of those brave women who valued the life of a dog to such a degree that they would risk their own lives.

  5. I’m so happy the dogs were rescued, but these women would’ve saved anyone in that house. Wish they were my neighbors. :)

  6. Yes, exactly. Thank you, Kim and Karen, for being the people we all hope we can be. What an amazing story!

  7. Got the news from my daughter (Kim’s sister-in-law). What a wonderful story, Kim and Karen. So glad you two were’nt injured in the act of being more than just “Good Samaritins”.

    You done us proud!

  8. I hold these two women in the highest regard.as we know many people would have just stood by and watched the house burn.they are as brave as our firefighters who do this every day. It takes a very special person to do this job (what these two women and firefighters) did. As a dog caretaker I would be weeping with joy if they had saved my beloved little girl.she is a six year old jack Russell and a major light in my life.may we all be more compassionate after hearing this story. Thank you Kim and Karen

  9. When I removed blown-in insulation from my attic (I stuffed it down into the walls and then used rigid foam on the ceiling) I found the original 1921 door bell transformer wired into the spool and tube wiring and buried in ithe nsulation. That really scared me and I began checking. One of the ceiling lights had lost it’s insulation just below and through the ceiling. The only thing preventing a short and spark was the wire’s memory of its position as it spiraled down to the hanging lamp.

    What a death-trap I was living in! But I still wonder what starts fires in an attic and I hope people are curious enough to check things out so they can catch simple obvious things like that light wiring. The buried transformer? Now, that just takes my breath! No-one died here but it sure kicks in my memory of the dangers I had lived with.

  10. I was one of the firefighters that entered with the first hose line. We met the lady coming out, as we went in.

    We occasionally encounter dogs and other animals when we enter homes. I’ve only seen one instance where the dog’s survival instinct did not have the pet running out as soon as we entered. OTOH, humans often get misoriented, panic and then succumb to smoke inhalation. I can certainly see the possibility for witnesses/bystanders to enter a burning building when the normal response time for firefighters is lengthy such as in rural areas and occupants are likely home. In this case we were on scene within 3 minutes of being dispatched, and had a line into the house within a minute or two of our arrival.

    The living space was completely intact, with no smoke or heat. We entered the attic space through an opening in the center hallway while on a small ladder. Significant smoke and fire were in the attic, and had begun to vent through the soffits, with flames visible from the outside. Within a minute or two of applying water we had the fire completely knocked down.

  11. As the mom of a soon to be firefighter, I would not want my son to lose his life trying to save an untrained civilian who entered a burning house rather than waiting 3 minutes for firefighters. This story might have turned out very badly for both the ‘hero’ and the firefighters who might have had to save her.

  12. Making it to any scene within 3 minutes is very, very impressive and commendable. Great job SFD.

  13. There were two other people that helped us last night. They disappeared after the SFD arrived. My thanks goes out to the man and woman who stopped and assisted with getting help and rescuing the dogs. [I handed you a dog you were clearly afraid of and you trusted and carried him in our car. Thank you!

  14. It is so typical that when community steps out to help (at it’s own risk, at that) it’s neighbours — that some uptight, afraid kook decides that a helpful citizen is an “untrained civilian who entered a burning house rather than waiting 3 minutes for firefighters”, risking everyone’s life.

    You are the same people who go off in knots of righteous rage when flocks of bystanders do absolutely NOTHING but revel in neighbourhood doom.


  15. Nice job, ladies. And bravo for the fire fighters who got there so quickly, particularly in a time of reduced budgets for first responders, who we hear cannot respond as quickly without increased funding. [That’s not a political statement; just a fact.] Of course, none of us knows how long it might take for fire fighters to arrive on scene. I’m sure glad the ladies kept their wits about them and ensured the animals escaped.

    As for SFDFF, the professional fire fighter’s, comment, his/her point is, of course, well taken. None of us wants an untrained citizen to get injured or die trying to rescue a victim. But remember. As neighbors, we don’t know how long it will take you to get there. You could be away at another emergency. If we can SEE potential victims in the window, do you really suggest we do nothing? If it was an elderly person or child we could see in the window, should we just stand back and wait for you? I just don’t think that’s human instinct.

  16. And no one suggested that, Josie. Walking all through the house, checking closets twice, etc. is what is described (and firefighters caution against), not seeing a child in the window. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

  17. Thanks to the great neighbors! A few minutes and the dogs may have been seriously injured or worse. These women had ability and good judgement. Seems like we need more like them and less of the ‘stand buy and wait for professional help from the city types.’ I suggest we not hire Rita’s son and enlist good volunteers in fire fighting and aid response. Thing of how many folks could get into serving and being a part of the community while cutting fire dept expenses by 25%. An EMT on every block, engaged citizens. Thanks again. You inspire many.