NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a story of when being neighborly helped save someone’s life; a woman running into a burning building to save the homeowner.
The Norfolk Fire Department responded to a house fire in the 9500 block of 15th Bay Street on Sunday. The call came in around 2:40 p.m.
Crews arrived to find a single-family home fully engulfed in fire. The call was upgraded to a 2-alarm fire. Fire crews began a defensive attack, and immediately began protecting the exposure to other houses, officials said.
The structure was consumed by the fire and burned to the ground. In total, five homes were damaged, including four houses with melted vinyl on the outside.
Kaori Glee lives right across the street from the home that burned down, and told 10 On Your Side that when she first saw the fire spark underneath the home, she didn’t think too much of it.
“You could see smoke coming from that side and then you see the littlest flame on the ground, the littlest flame,” she said.
That was until she took a second look just a couple of minutes later.
“I actually look down again and I can see a fire billowing,” Glee said.
She said believed the fire reached from the grass to the porch, and finally to the entire house. Glee said while she was calling 911, she saw a car parked outside and realized someone was inside the house.
Glee said that person was “Ms. Tammy,” a close family friend. Tammy is hard of hearing and doesn’t speak, so Glee said she jumped into action, running into the house, banging on the door screaming, “There’s a fire!”
“So I start banging on the door again, she opens it, and I physically, you know, say you’ve got to come out, we’ve got to go,” Glee said. “So, I grab her in a little hug, and we start walking down the stairs. It’s just so sad because we stood there and watched her house burn down. We watched her lose what she has.”
Multiple neighbors told 10 On Your Side that the wind blew the flames onto one of the power lines across from the house.
Dominion Energy was on scene not too long after. Another neighbor said they were there to shut off power while fire crews hosed down the affected power pole.
Glee said her grandmother also suffered a loss in the fire.
“Her car windows are busted out; car caught on fire,” Glee said. “Her car was across the street from Ms. Tammy’s house.”
While she was grateful no one was hurt, Glee said she believed it took too long to get ahold of 911.
“I was on hold with 911 the first time for 5 minutes,” Glee said. “I had to hang up and call back twice because – I’ve never known 911 to not answer the phone, so that was kind of heartbreaking for me.”
Norfolk Dispatch sent a statement about the response times to 10 On Your Side saying, “We received more calls than available telecommunicators. In addition, we had callers making multiple calls in lieu of remaining on the line as instructed on the recording. This requires our 9-1-1 call takers to confirm emergencies while still answering the inbound calls waiting in queue.”
Nevertheless, Glee said at the end of the day it’s all about helping everyone stand on their feet again.
“We’re a family down here, everybody is. We’ve known each other for like I’ve said years. So, it’s nothing we can’t overcome,” Glee said.
The fire was under control around 4:10 p.m. and no injuries were reported.
This is an ongoing investigation.