Man catches wife from upper floor window after house fire early Tuesday in S.W. Topeka

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – May 5, 2015

Topeka fire officials discuss an investigation into a blaze that severely damaged a house early Tuesday at 3732 S.W. Eveningside Drive.  Photo by Phil Anderson.

Topeka fire officials discuss an investigation into a blaze that severely damaged a house early Tuesday at 3732 S.W. Eveningside Drive. Photo by Phil Anderson.

Lynn Humpert was awakened by the sound of a smoke detector around 3 a.m. Tuesday as she slept in an upstairs bedroom of her home at 3732 S.W. Twilight Drive.

Good thing the detector was working, the 52-year-old Humpert said.

“I’m telling you, it saved our lives,” she said. “The smoke detector saved our lives.

“I had the fan going, but I could still hear the ‘beep, beep, beep.’ ”

Jarred awake, Humpert jumped out of bed and opened her bedroom door to notify her husband, Lynn, 61, of the fire. She said her husband had fallen asleep in his “man cave” on the home’s third floor.

But because of heavy smoke and flames in the hallway, Humpert said, she couldn’t reach her husband.

She said she then yelled “fire, fire, fire — the house is on fire” as loudly as she could to awaken her husband.

When her husband awoke after hearing her yelling, he came running, but was stopped by the fire.

He then went back into his upstairs room on the west side of the house, broke out a window and jumped onto a roof, then onto the ground.

Humpert said her husband then ran around the front — or south side — of the house.

By then, she said, she had been forced out of the home by intense smoke and was “dangling” by her hands out the upper-floor, southeast window — about 15 feet off the concrete driveway.

Humpert’s husband positioned himself under her to assist her in her escape.

“He said, ‘Just fall — I’ll catch you,’” Humpert said. “And he did.”

Before she was forced out of the house by the intense smoke, Humpert said she was able to salvage a few personal belongings like her purse, which she threw out the window.

The couple also was able to get a Ford Mustang out of the garage. Neither it nor the couple’s other two cars was damaged.

Humpert said she wasn’t able to call authorities on her cell phone until after she and her husband had jumped out the windows and moved to a save area.

Topeka Fire Department officials said they got the call on the blaze at 3:02 a.m. Fire crews could see the glow of the blaze as they were approaching it from the east.

First-arriving crews reported heavy smoke and flames pouring out the residence.

Crews were able to bring the blaze under control by 3:36 a.m.

Several hours after the fire, investigators remained on the scene, trying to determine the cause of the blaze.

Both of the Humperts sustained what fire officials said was “minor” smoke inhalation, and neither required immediate hospital treatment.

Lynn Humpert also burned his right hand in the fire. The hand was wrapped with a white bandage.

The Humperts have adult children living in Topeka and said they will be able to offer housing until their home is repaired.

Topeka fire investigators Alan Stahl and Rusty Vollintine were on the scene but as of 8 a.m. hadn’t determined the cause of the blaze, though Stahl did say it caused “significant damage” to the home.

The Humperts own the home. It is insured and valued at $117,080, according to the Shawnee County appraiser’s website.

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