When a fire broke out in a building containing four townhouses, located in the 6200 block of Saint John’s Drive on July 21, Eden Prairie resident Mary Almeida didn’t hesitate to respond.
Despite facing ongoing health challenges, including scoliosis and fibromyalgia, she said she immediately alerted her family and neighbors of the danger.
“Everything happened so fast,” recounted Almeida, who lives in one of the townhouses. “I did not have time to think about anything else but getting people out of their units.”
After noticing an orange reflection off the units above her hill in the front yard, Almeida said she called 911 at 10:18 p.m.
“I had a gut-wrenching feeling something was wrong,” she explained.
Almeida ran outside and began waving her arms to signal to a neighbor and others inside one of the two units on fire to evacuate. “They didn’t notice me,” she said.
She returned to her townhouse and yelled to her husband, Carlos Serrano, to get their children, ages 9, 7, and 5, out to safety.
Almeida’s quick actions extended to her neighbors Anne Armstrong and her daughter Gabriela Evans, who live in one of the units severely damaged by fire. Almeida’s daughter was good friends with Gabriela, adding to her urgency.
She ran into their burning unit, but they were already out.
“I had no fear, I had no panic. I did not care,” Almeida added. “I had to verify that she (Gabriela) got out.”
From there, she ran to the fourth unit to ensure those people were out. She also returned to her unit to get her family’s guinea pigs, putting them in her shirt and “hauling them out like a kangaroo.”
Almeida used a garden hose to battle the flames before the police and fire departments arrived. “I (had been) spraying my windows, siding, and getting as far up as I could for the roof,” she said.
The Eden Prairie Fire Department arrived at 10:30 p.m. to extinguish the fire in a fourplex. It damaged two townhouse units and four garage stalls before being put out. The remaining two townhouse units, including Almeida’s, sustained water damage.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation. Although no injuries were reported from the fire then, Almeida later revealed that she had sustained leg injuries. However, she did not report them.
Almeida set up a GoFundMe page to assist her and her family after the fire.
“Looking back, I realized how strong I am and how the adrenaline stopped me from fearing or panicking while rescuing my other neighbors who were impacted,” she said.
Related story: Read how Anne Armstrong and her daughter Gabriela Evans are rebuilding their lives after a fire destroyed their Eden Prairie townhouse.
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