Athens grandmother rescued from burning home passes away

Woman suffered burns; other family members escaped

Athens grandmother rescued from burning home passes away

ATHENS, AL (WAFF) -An Athens woman rescued from a raging fire by firefighters has passed away.

Selestine Harris’ family expressed their gratitude to the firefighters who worked to pull their loved one out of the burning home, but sadly, Harris died following the blaze that destroyed her home.

Adria Harris stood in front of her family's charred house on Wednesday, tears coming down her face. They lost everything due to the quick work of the savage flames.

Athens firefighters rescue grandmother from burning home

It happened Tuesday night around 10: 30 at their home on Acorn Hill Circle.

"I was on the couch watching a movie and I had my headphones on and I heard this little pop and the kitchen was on fire," Harris said.

Everyone managed to get out, except for Harris’ 63 year old mother, Selestine.

“My mom and four year old niece were in the bedroom. They got my niece out and they went back to get my mom and we just couldn’t get to her,” Harris explained.

Athens Fire & Rescue Chief Bryan Thornton says his firefighters found the house fully engulfed when they arrived on the scene, calling the conditions "horrendous."

Athens firefighters rescue grandmother from burning home

“There were family members there that had got out of the house and told them that grandmother was still in there,” Chief Thornton said. “Fire was blowing out of all the windows. The guys had to make a calculated choice there for that one room. They entered a window of that bedroom, made a quick grab. They found her next to the bed and were able to successfully get her out of the house.”

They pulled Selestine Harris out and she was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with burns.

An obituary for her mother indicates she passed away on April 25th.

According to Athens Fire and Rescue reports, a daughter, two teenage sons, a four-year-old niece and friend made it out safely.

Chief Thornton says the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Officials believe it could have started in the kitchen, a cooking accident.

The melted eye shields on the firefighters' helmets are proof of what they were up against on the scene.

“The guys did amazing. We have a saying: Risk a lot to save a lot. A human life, that’s a lot,” Thornton said. “I just don’t think the general public realizes the risk that they put themselves in and they were able to get her out successfully. We’re praying for the family."”

If someone had not been inside the home, he doesn't think firefighters would have gone inside.

"These guys made a conscious decision, under the fire conditions and heat conditions of this house, that they would risk a lot," Thornton added. "There's only one time you take this risk and that's when there's a possible savable life inside of a structure. And that's what they did. They made that choice and did their job."

The family also lost their dog in the fire. Adria Harris said all of her important information, belongings and cell phone are also gone, but she thanked firefighters for their bravery.

“They did a wonderful job because they got my mom out and she was still breathing. I’m so thankful because it could have been worse than what it was,” she added. “And I just praise God and hope everything is going to be alright. All we’re asking for is prayer that my mom gets better.”

The Red Cross was on the scene Thursday assisting the family.

The sign on the door of the fire station in Athens. Firefighters pass by it every time they leave to go to a scene.
The sign on the door of the fire station in Athens. Firefighters pass by it every time they leave to go to a scene. (Source: WAFF)

Funeral service for Selestine Harris will be 1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 4, 2019 at New Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church (11479 Dogwood Flat Road Tanner, AL 35671). Interment will be in the Limestone Memorial Gardens. Ms. Harris will lie in repose one hour prior to funeral time.Public viewing will be held from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Friday, May 3, 2019 and 8:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the Royal Funeral Home - Mason Chapel in Athens, Alabama.

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