Injured paramedic rescues disabled woman from residential fire
A Muskogee paramedic who rescued a woman from a burning building was one of two people taken to Saint Francis Muskogee Hospital on Tuesday.
The fire occurred at the Greenleaf Apartments, 715 S. York St. One unit was destroyed and several others were damaged.
Paramedic Matt Gardenhire was admitted for overnight observation, treated for smoke inhalation. The other person is not identified and has also been admitted. His condition is unknown.
Paramedic supervisor Chris Turner said when they arrived at the scene, they coordinated their efforts with firefighters.
“We asked them what they expected from us.” Turner said. “Some residents said there was a lady who lived in one of the local apartments they hadn’t seen and was disabled. I sent Matt over there to pick her up.”
Turner said that when Gardenhire, also a shift supervisor with 13 years on duty, got to the third floor, Gardenhire started yelling to let Turner know he had taken the woman out.
Gardenhire said entering the building had limited visibility.
“I could hear a voice screaming in the hallway,” he said. “After about 40-50 yards, I ran over to a lady lying on the ground screaming for help. I grabbed her and pulled her out.”
After bringing the woman out, Gardenhire said he realized something was wrong.
“Within 10 minutes of leaving the building, I started to get sick,” he said. “But I got back, up to the second floor which was still smoky – it wasn’t smart.”
Turner said paramedics set up a triage center in the parking lot of Green Country Bowling Lanes.
“We ended up treating five patients on site and getting refusals on them, and transportation – so we had a total of six,” he said.
Muskogee Deputy Fire Chief Ben Terrell said the call arrived at 7:14 a.m.
Firefighters managed to contain the blaze in a unit on the third floor of a building in the southwest corner of the complex and extinguished the blaze within an hour of the call.
“There was an eviscerated unit,” he said. “The units on either side have heavy smoke damage – the whole hall is going to have smoke damage. The apartment below has water damage.”
Terrell said he was not allowing any of the residents to return to this part of the building.
“I blocked five rooms,” he said. “I don’t know how many people live in these rooms.”
While investigators are still investigating the cause of the blaze, Terrell said one of his main concerns was the safety of everyone involved.
“I’m not letting anyone in at the moment because I’m afraid the ceiling will fall,” he said. “So we are keeping people away for now.”
Muskogee Police Officer Lynn Hamlin said Rachel Sellers was taken to hospital and was a suspect in the fire.
The management of the resort was not available for comment.
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