Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region blog on March 9, 2017. Photos and story by volunteer Chris Peralta.
The house was quiet as Reggie Ector sat in his den, reading. Suddenly, he heard three pops.
Curious, he looked around, wondering what the sound was. It didn’t take long to find out: he saw fire coming out of an electrical socket in the room.
Seeing that the fire was small, he tried to put it out with water. His fiancé, who was in a bedroom at the time, soon joined the effort. Reggie would later call this a mistake.
“Trying to put the fire out put our lives in danger,” he said.
They tried to fill a bucket with water. The bucket was too large for a sink, so they could barely get any water inside. Eventually, they grabbed a fire extinguisher, but by then smoke was becoming too thick and they were becoming disoriented.
Ten minutes after the fire started, they escaped the house.
A neighbor saw all the smoke and called 911. Firefighters soon arrived and were able to put the fire out.
Reggie was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. His fiancé was treated for a burn on her ear, the result of exposure to the heat.
Reggie’s sister came to see him in the hospital. While she was there, she told him she had called the Red Cross to help him out.
“It was a sense of relief to know I’d have a place to rest my head,” he said.
It wasn’t Regggie’s first time interacting with the Red Cross. He had been a volunteer with Disaster Services. But even though he had comforted and helped fire victims before, he admits he had no idea what it was like.
“Never did it dawn on me what a fire victim goes through, until it happened to me.”
The house has significant damage to it. The fire was mostly contained to one room, but the smoke damage is extensive. While he plans his next steps, Reggie says the Red Cross House is helping him through one of life’s toughest experiences.
“The food, the shelter, having a place to lay your head that was safe and clean,” he said, “that made a difference.”
But it hasn’t just been about the place to stay. It’s also been about the people who are providing comfort through some of life’s difficulties.
“I’ve laid in bed, crying many nights, thankful to God for this place,” Reggie said. “This place is excellent. Never have I met a more compassionate group of people. There’s a special kind of people here.”