PORT ALLEN — Ann Stelly and Kari Stentiford proved schoolteachers truly are heroes of the community.
The Port Allen Elementary School faculty members recently taught the community a valuable lesson in emergency response and rescue when they charged into a home in danger of burning to evacuate its occupants.
On May 1, Port Allen firefighters were dispatched to 577 Burbridge St. around 2:30 p.m. in response to a 911 call about a house fire, Fire Chief Rick Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said firefighters arrived on the scene to find it was actually a garage shed adjacent to the home engulfed in flames.
The fire was caused by a malfunctioning water heater, Boudreaux said.
The house’s owner, Paula Parker, 56, had been inside the house watching television with her two nephews at the time and had no idea what was happening as the flames from the shed fire came dangerously close to igniting her home, Boudreaux said.
Luckily, Stelly and Stentiford were across the street directing students onto their buses to go home for the day when others alerted them about the blaze.
“Two teachers noticed the garage on fire,” said Stelly, a kindergarten teacher at Port Allen Elementary, on Wednesday. “Someone asked the question ‘Is someone in the house?’ and I just ran across the street and started banging on the door. I heard someone call out from inside and my heart just fell to the floor.”
Stelly said when Parker opened the door, she told the woman what was going on before grabbing Parker’s 2-year-old nephew and began urging the rest of the family to get out of the house.
Stentiford, who teaches special education, followed Stelly into the endangered residence seconds later after another teacher, Lindsay Duncan, called 911.
“I was on another side of the school,” Stentiford said. “When I saw the type of flames waving in the air, I knew it was a house fire. (Parker) kept saying she wanted to get her purse and I told her not to worry about it.”
Stentiford said she ushered one of Parker’s nephews out of the home while Parker followed Stelly and the other nephew across the street to the school.
Boudreaux said firefighters were able to extinguish the shed fire quickly and the home received only “very minor” damage from the flames, he said.
“I’m so glad they were at the school,” Parker said Wednesday afternoon in the comfort of her spared home. “They came in and just took control. I didn’t smell any smoke or heard anything.”
The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board acknowledged for the teachers’ efforts Wednesday night during the board’s regular meeting. Stelly and Stentiford were among the many students and other faculty members honored by the board.
They both received a standing ovation from the crowd for actions Superintendent David Corona called, “the goodness of people.”
“I can’t say I was scared,” Stelly said. “It was just a reaction. I didn’t think about my safety. I was just worried about someone else’s.”