Small windows prevented firefighters from getting to Muncie couple

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MUNCIE, Ind. (June 4, 2015) - A Muncie couple was trapped in their bedroom for nearly 30 minutes after flames and smoke tore through their home early Saturday morning.

Pam Price called 911 after her husband, Tom, smelled smoke. In the 911 recording, you can hear her say: “The fire people just got to our house and we’re stuck on the second floor. We can’t get out.”

The fire started in the garage. Tom, who is a Ball State University professor, went downtown stairs to check it out. By the time he got back upstairs to get his wife, it was too late to get back downstairs and out the door.

Firefighters arrived and were met with challenges immediately. In their Country Village community, there are no fire hydrants. It took time for firefighters to get enough tankers to get water on the house.

“They know you’re on the east side above the garage. They’re gonna start there first, okay? They’re gonna try to get to you first, alright?" a 911 dispatcher said during the call.

Hamilton Township Fire Chief Tim Baty says crews then worked their way upstairs through another bedroom window. They moved through the top floor because the bottom was fully engulfed. Then, the floor collapsed.

“Firefighters got in the hallway. About the same time the firefighters were entering the window on the east side of the house when that bedroom’s floor and the bed that the firemen saw from the window collapsed into the basement," said Chief Baty.

Next, he said he moved crews to defensive mode. The goal went from getting the couple out, to putting out the flames. “I gave the order to exit the building. The fire was too intense," Chief Baty said.

Pam was still on the phone with 911. A dispatcher told firefighters the couple was still alive, but they were still trapped in their bedroom.

“I’ll check in with you every now and then. I don’t want you to talk unless you need to okay? That way we can save as much air as we can okay?" a dispatcher said on the 911 call.

“Oh, we’re in desperate shape. Please help us," Pam responded to the dispatcher.

Chief Baty said his crews worked in any way they could to get inside the house, knowing they would somehow have to enter from the outside through the bedroom walls.

“If it wasn’t for that dispatcher coming back on the radio saying we can still hear them, we would have never sent anybody back in. This story today would be totally different.”

The next problem firefighters faced was small windows in the bedroom. Two windows were too tiny for the couple and firefighters to fit through. The windows are not standard bedroom size. Firefighters pushed through a wall to get the couple out.

“From the time they found the first victim to the time the second one was out…less than a minute," Chief Baty said.

The couple was inside the burning home for at least 30 minutes before being rushed to the hospital. They had severe smoke inhalation. Chief Baty said the couple's quick thinking saved their lives. They wrapped wet sheets around their bodies and put a towel under the door to prevent smoke from getting inside. They also didn't open the windows, even though they knew they couldn't get out. That kept flames from getting inside the bedroom.

“For the Price’s to be in the condition they are in and awake and talking is nothing short of a miracle," said Chief Baty.

Tom has been released. Pam is still in the hospital, but her condition is improving. If you would like to help the couple, click here.

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