Starksboro man saves woman from fire

MILTON — Chris Fanning of Starksboro said he did what anyone else would do when he pulled an elderly woman from a burning home in Milton this past Wednesday morning.
Fanning, who runs a Starksboro plumbing, heating and air conditioning company called Pride Mechanical, just happened to get a service call around 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 4 and saw smoke billowing from the residence at 591 Everest Road in Milton. When he shut off his truck, he heard a woman screaming for help.
Fanning rushed to the house, wrenched open the front door and saw the homeowner, 83-year-old Marie O’Connor, in her motorized wheelchair, five feet from the doorway. Her chair was stuck, and she couldn’t get out.
“I got down low,” Fanning said, still at the scene an hour later. “I must have had enough adrenaline and just pulled the chair out and was able to get her out.”
Seconds later, there was an explosion, likely one of the propane tanks, which were venting when Milton fire crews arrived 15 minutes later. The entire home was engulfed, Milton Fire Chief Don Turner said.
“There was fire coming out of every window,” he said. “The fire was very intense. I believe it was being fueled by the propane escaping into the house.”
O’Connor also had an oxygen tank and ammunition inside and numerous motorized vehicles outside. Crews immediately cooled the propane tanks and went to work on the rest of the house, sourcing water from nearby Lake Champlain, Turner said.
Nearly 30 firefighters from Milton, Georgia, Colchester and St. Michael’s College departments responded to the single-story home, which is a total loss, valued around $150,000.
O’Connor was cooking with oil and activated her life alert when a grease fire ignited, Vermont State Police said. She attempted to put out the flames by placing the pan in the sink, but it continued to burn; the VSP fire investigation unit ruled the fire accidental and non-suspicious.
Milton Rescue transported O’Connor to the University of Vermont Medical Center for minor injuries.
Fire Chief Turner said the department will formally recognize Fanning’s lifesaving actions at a later date.
“There was no way we would have gotten here in time to assist her,” Turner said. “We’re lucky in Milton today that somebody did not die in this fire.”

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