Lindsey Denton said she doesn’t think of herself as a hero.
“It was just one of those things that happened so fast,” the Fort Riley military spouse said. “(I) was kind of (on) auto-pilot.”
Denton went above and beyond her neighborly duty to extinguish a fire in her neighbor’s house. It all happened Nov. 21 in Colyer Manor.
Denton was at home that morning when she heard her neighbor’s dogs whimpering and crying.
“(It) was really odd for them,” Denton said. “They’re usually pretty quiet.”
Then she noticed a faint beeping sound.
“I thought my husband had left an alarm on,” she said. “I went upstairs, (but) I couldn’t find it. It was (my neighbor’s) smoke detector.”
Denton saw smoke coming from her neighbor’s kitchen and phoned her neighbor, who was in Manhattan, to ask for permission to enter the home. Denton said she knew she had to get the dogs out of the house.
“She’s like me. Those are her kids; those are her babies,” Denton said.
Denton approached the house.
“There was smoke coming out of the doorframe,” she said.
Denton dialed 911 and went inside.
“I couldn’t see anything,” she said.
Denton located the dogs and led them outside to the safety of their kennels. Then she did what many people wouldn’t do. She went back into the house.
“It was one of those things you don’t really think about when you’re doing it,” she said.
Still on the phone with 911, Denton reached for the fire extinguisher, which – thanks to Picerne – is located in the same place in every unit.
“That was a good move on their part,” Denton said.
“It wasn’t a big fire,” she said. “I grabbed the fire extinguisher and (had) put (the fire) out by the time (responders) got there.”
When investigators from the Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services arrived, they were impressed.
“She did a fabulous job,” said Wes Hill, captain, FES, Directorate of Emergency Services. “She was the reason that this was so successful.”
Just a few more minutes and the fire could have been much worse, according to Hill. Her neighbor’s possessions and even the building itself might have been damaged or destroyed. Up to six Families that live in the building could have been dislocated – the day before Thanksgiving.
“Denton went above and beyond her civic duty,” Hill said. “(Upon entry), she was met by a lot of heat and smoke and fire. That right there is intimidation (enough) for the average citizen.
(But she) decided to go in and had the bearings to remember where the extinguisher is.”
Deployment of a fire extinguisher adds “to the lack of vision, difficulty (breathing) and just overall anxiety of the event,” Hill said. “She performed flawlessly.
“After it was all done, (she) had the common sense to turn the burner off. I know it sounds silly, but by turning off the burner, she eliminated the possibility of the house filling with natural gas, which could (have) caused another fire or explosion.”
Denton credits her parents with her calm under pressure. Juggling jobs, children and Family illness, they taught her to adapt to stressful situations without getting overwhelmed, she said.
Mild-mannered and humble, Denton seemed surprised by all the attention.
“I had my hand shaken a lot that day,” she recalled.
While Denton’s actions were heroic, and she saved life and property by choosing to act, simply calling 911 is often the safest course of action, according to Hill; however, people should be aware that cell phones can make pin-pointing the location of an emergency situation more difficult.
“Most of our 911 calls (come) from cell phones,” Hill said. “Depending on where you are on post, you may go to some other 911 hub-calling center.”
In fact, Denton’s call was initially routed to Geary County.
If a call is directed to Riley or Geary County, the caller should indicate the situation is at Fort Riley. Once connected to Fort Riley’s 911 center, callers can help FES locate an incident just by providing the building number.
“The more information you can give (the) dispatcher, the better,” said Scott Melcher, fire inspector and investigator, FES, DES. “Give all the information you can (and) leave your call back number, even if you don’t have time to stay.”
Fortunately, Denton was able to stay for emergency services to arrive.
“I was surprised by how many people showed up,” she said, listing off fire trucks, Fort Riley police, civilian police, fire inspectors and a representative from the Picerne neighborhood office. “It’s kind of nice to know that there’s that safety net there. You’ve got an actual team of people. It makes you feel (really) good.”
Denton said the event has made her more aware of fire safety in her own home. She now checks her smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and is more aware of her pets’ safety.
The damage to her neighbor’s home was largely smoke-related and simply cosmetic.
“From what I understand, I guess it could have been a lot worse,” Denton said. “(My neighbor) was pretty lucky.”
By Julie Fiedler
1st Inf. Div. Post
Julie Fiedler | POST
Lindsey Denton, military spouse, poses for a picture Nov. 30 in front of the six-unit townhouse where she lives in Colyer Manor. Denton put out a fire in her neighbor’s home the day before Thanksgiving.