Colchester man rescued from burning house
By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Feb. 5, 2013
As Robert Tardif of East Haddam was driving along Old Hebron Road in Colchester with his wife on Jan. 27, the couple noticed a large cloud of black smoke and pulled off the road to see where it was coming from. Tardif, a former Marine and retired Pratt & Whitney machinist, said that a man who stopped behind his car had called 911 and a woman who was standing by the road told him there was someone inside the house from which the smoke emanated.
Instinctively, Tardif ran into the house. "I don't think I was thinking of anything. I just ran up there. My only thought, I guess, was if there was somebody in there... what I needed to do." Tardif doesn't know how long he was inside the house, but he hollered down a hallway and heard a noise coming from the deck area on the back of the house. He didn't remember seeing flames or feeling heat from the fire, but he recalled the suffocating smell of smoke, as he followed the noise.
Tardif found the homeowner on the deck with a man and woman, who were trying to coax him down the stairs. The homeowner, who was later identified as Bruce Kearns, was attached to an oxygen tank by a hose and the tank was still in the house, Tardif said. “He wanted his tank, but I told him we’re not going in for the tank. I told the young lady to take the air line off his nose and let’s get him down the stairs.”
The stairs were narrow, and Tardif followed them down. Once Kearns was safely on the ground, he walked for a while on his own and then Tardif and the other man carried him to the front of the house, as he was suffering from lack of oxygen. A police officer told them it was okay to put the man in the back seat of the cruiser, and Tardif let him know that he would soon need oxygen before he left the scene.
Deputy Chief of the Colchester Hayward Fire Department Don Lee said that 90 percent of the interior of the home was damaged in the fire. He said the fire department was originally notified when a person who had seen the entire front of the house engulfed in flames came into the department to report the fire. Lee said the homeowners didn't understand what was going on right away. "They heard beeping going on in the house," Lee said. "The gentleman in the home is on oxygen. They thought the beeping downstairs was his low oxygen alarm. In fact, it was smoke detectors going off.”
According to Lee, the other man who assisted in getting Kearns to safety was Adam Desautels, and the woman who helped was Yvonne Baldi, who lives across the street and is a friend of the homeowner.
“They did a phenomenal job,” Lee said. “Had he stayed where he was, he was definitely in harm’s way. The way the fire was coming up through the house.” Eventually it also came out the back door, he said.
Lee said the fire started in the garage around the circuit breakers. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Colchester fire department received help from Salem, Garden Lake and the Bozrah fire departments. When they called for additional help, Hebron, East Haddam and East Hampton responded at that time, Lee said. They got the fire under control within 50 minutes after the initial call, which came in at 12:23 p.m. The last unit left the scene around 3:30 p.m.