Durham family rescue neighbors from house fire with ladder


On Friday morning, the Colmenares family were sleeping soundly when screams from the house opposite woke them up.

Liz Colmenares was the first to hear her neighbors frantically calling for help. She looked out the window and saw the rear exterior of the neighbors two-story house burned up in a bright orange flame. She rushed to wake up her sister, Kimberly Diaz, and her father, Reyes Colmenares.

The three men ran outside shortly after 5:30 a.m. and found three people stranded on their neighbors’ roofs. Black smoke billowed from the bedrooms on the second floor of the house.

“The first time I got out of the house, I went to see what had happened, I was like in my head ‘are they still inside the house’ because I don’t know what is happening at that point, ”Reyes said. Colmenares recalled Sunday in an interview with The News & Observer.

The neighbors of the Colmenares were sitting on a sloping part of the roof in their pajamas and had tried to call 911. They asked Reyes Colmenares if he had a ladder.

Colmenares rushed home to grab the ladder in his garage, and he and his daughters clung to the ladder as their neighbors descended.

Diaz said that 5 to 10 minutes after his family helped their neighbors down from the roof, the fire, which appeared to be spreading upwards, reached the rooms on the second floor.

Durham Fire 12/24
Smoke surrounds a two-story house on Duxford Court in east Durham after firefighters responded to an early morning blaze on Friday, December 24, 2021. Courtesy of Kimberly Diaz

The Durham Fire Department responded to the Duxford Court fire in east Durham at around 5:45 a.m. with 41 people, according to Division Chief David Swain, and was assisted by the Volunteer Fire Department of Redwood and the County Durham Emergency Department. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to bring the blaze under control, Swain said in a press release.

The two adults who lived in the house, which suffered “heavy” damage from the fire, escaped without any injuries, Swain said. He added that the origin and cause of the fire was still under investigation.

In a text message Sunday, Swain said firefighters had no update on his investigation.

A local chapter of the American Red Cross also responded to the scene to assist residents, who were moved from their homes on Christmas Eve, reported ABC11, The News & Observer’s news gathering partner.

“This is the worst time of year for this to happen to them,” Diaz said.

After helping his neighbors down, Diaz noticed that the siding of the house next door to another neighbor, Alex Rodriguez, was also starting to melt.

“I rushed over there and started knocking on the door – they were still sleeping, they had no idea what was going on,” Diaz said.

Security cameras mounted outside their home captured footage of the blaze that started and then spread to the back of their neighbors’ home, Diaz said.

Firefighters thanked her family for coming to the aid of their neighbors, she said, and reviewed footage captured by their cameras.

Diaz said she has not spoken to her neighbors since their home was devastated by the fire and has not known where they have been living since then, but her family are happy to help them in any way they can. .

When asked if he expected to save someone with his ladder, Diaz’s father Reyes laughed and replied, “No, I never think the ladder would help save lives. one day.”

This story was originally published December 26, 2021 4:41 pm.

Avi Bajpai covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun.


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