By Eric Andreychuk
SAULT STE. MARIE — No one could have figured that a weekend trip to visit a daughter at college would become a moment where quick thinking and a certain amount of heroism would be necessary.
Lonnie Kester and his wife, Carol, were visiting their daughter, Sarah, at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie last Thursday. Only an hour after arriving, they were surprised by the sounds of a fire alarm.
Shortly after 5 p.m. on April 14, firefighters from the Sault Ste. Marie fire department were called to a local apartment complex for a couch fire, arriving to find smoke coming from the second floor of the structure.
The family quickly rushed out into the hallway and soon noticed a group of approximately four men standing outside a closed door, three apartments down, with smoke coming out through the cracks.
Kester approached the group of men to find out what was going on. He asked the men if anyone was in the apartment and they were unsure. As he opened the door, a huge plume of smoke came billowing out of the doorway.
“It was as dense as fog,” he explained. “It was like someone was burning tires. That’s how thick the smoke was.”
Kester entered the apartment to find a man laying on the floor. The man could not walk on his own; he had a walker and was on oxygen. Kester grabbed one of the bystanders and ushered the man out of his apartment to safety.
“I can’t walk away from people who need help,” he pointed out. “I just can’t.”
Emergency personnel extinguished the couch fire and conveyed the man to War Memorial Hospital for treatment of burns to his arms and face. The injuries were not considered to be life-threatening.
Firefighters officially cleared the apartment complex at 6:28 p.m. after turning off the sprinklers and airing out the structure.
Later that night, the Kesters attended their daughter’s ballet recital, where she had spread the word about her father’s quick thinking.
The president of the university and his wife approached the family afterwards, thanked Kester for his efforts and called him a hero.
The fire only damaged a few of the adjacent apartment units across the hall and underneath, mostly due to water damage from the sprinklers. Kester’s daughter was able to return to her apartment that evening.
Eric Andreychuk is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Millington man assists in fire rescue in Sault Ste. Marie
By Eric Andreychuk