Two teens and a 54-year-old man are being credited with saving the life of their neighbor who, police said, set herself ablaze inside of her Upper Darby house last night.
"I would have never thought I could do something like this," said Kareem Avery, 17, one of the teens who jumped in to action.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Keystone Avenue near West Chester Pike, Raymond Joseph was sitting in his back yard when he saw a flame coming through his 44-year-old neighbor's kitchen door, said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. When Joseph went to look through her window, he saw that his neighbor was on fire and that there were several other small fires set in the living room, police said.
When he discovered all of the doors to the house were locked, Joseph screamed for help and Avery and his friend, Lsmith Keo, 17, both sophomores at Upper Darby High School who live nearby, ran to help.
"The neighbor came out the door yelling 'Fire' then we just went over there to go help," said Keo. "It was an instinct."
Keo said he punched out a window to the house with his fist and Avery climbed inside. Once inside, Avery said he saw the woman and that she appeared to be trying to brush the fire off her "but it wasn't getting off."
He unlocked the door and Joseph ran inside, put her on the ground and patted out the fire. Joseph then got water and put out the other small fires throughout the house while Avery said he called 911.
The woman was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center's burn unit, where she remained in critical condition yesterday, according to police.
Police have responded to the woman's house 10 times since last year, all for domestic disturbance issues, Chitwood said. On Monday, officers served a protection from abuse order eviction notice against the woman's live-in boyfriend at her request. During the serving process, her boyfriend claimed to have heart problems and was taken to the hospital, Chitwood said. He is not believed to, in any way, be connected to Wednesday night's incident.
Chitwood said police know the woman set herself and various items in her house on fire because when they responded, she kept stating that if they stopped her from killing herself, she would only do it later.
The actions of Joseph, Keo and Avery not only saved the life of one woman, but perhaps, of many people on their block, Chitwood said.
"What they did was a heroic act," he said. "They probably saved a catastrophe in the neighborhood because it's a rowhouse block and who knows what would have happened if the fire kept going."