A Lake Carmel woman is being heralded as a hero this week for extinguishing a fire at a neighbor's home which authorities said averted a major catastrophe.

Cathy Wiede works at her home and when the mother of three smelled smoke, she went outside but was unable to locate the source.

Several hours later, while walking to a school bus stop nearby, Mrs. Wiede observed a haze in the air and saw a wisp of smoke coming from a carport at the Peter and Joan Valdez residence.

Mrs. Wiede found a piece of wood burning beneath a wooden deck and when she looked up, she observed the deck on fire. The Good Samaritan immediately grabbed a broom that was nearby and extinguished the flames before turning on a garden hose with the help of a pair of pliers to thoroughly extinguish the blaze.

Mrs. Wiede checked the charred wood with her hands to make sure that the flames had been extinguished as well as examining for any extension of hot spots.

When Mr. and Mrs. Valdez returned home, they couldn't believe their eyes and their good fortune that Cathy Wiede was a neighbor.

"Cathy is a treasure. She is always very observant and is very aware. Thank God, she was around," said Mr. Valdez.

Mrs. Wiede was asked if she ever thought of contacting the fire department. "I did briefly but no one was at home and I didn't have a cell phone with me so I acted on my own. I knew the fire was burning slowly and since my husband is an ex-firefighter, I knew to feel the grain of the wood all the way to the house. Once I realized that the fire had not gotten into the siding, I was relieved," she said.

Mr. Valdez and his wife have lived in Lake Carmel for the past 41 years. The retired Grand Union warehouseman said he almost broke down and cried when he realized that "everything we owned could have been lost. If she wasn't around, we would have been burned out."

Kent Fire Inspector William Walters said the fire began when Mrs. Valdez placed a match in a plastic flowerpot after lighting an insect repellent candle. "The burn was slow and melted the plastic which was found at the site. The burn site was only two feet from the rear door. If Mrs. Wiede had not acted the way she did, the fire had the potential of destroying the entire home," he said.

Two weeks ago, a fire that started from a match placed in an outside plastic planter, destroyed a residence in the Red Oak Ridge section of Carmel.

While Mr. Walters praised Mrs. Wiede for a "job well done," he had one suggestion for anyone observing fire and smoke. "Call the fire department!"

Mr. Walters said there was nothing wrong with attempting to extinguish a blaze as long as one's life was not placed in jeopardy. "It's always a good idea to dial 911 for any emergency situation," he said.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005