Officers rescue woman trapped in basement of burning house
Kaitlyn McGarvey, Record-Courier, Kent, Ohio
May 21—Flames were spreading across the mulch on the side of 424 Harvest Drive when Ravenna Police Sgt. Cris Coy arrived at the scene.
Footage from his body camera showed that the fire had consumed about half of the home already, thick smoke pouring out of windows and doorways. Just feet from the burning mulch, Coy leaned down to a small basement window that had been broken out and urgently called to a woman trapped inside. Moments later, he and Officer Dominic Nicolino pulled her to safety.
Just before the rescue, Coy and Nicolino can be seen on Coy’s body camera frantically pacing the side of the home looking for a way in. Coy and Nicolino work to knock out the window as the fire blows and spreads. They call to the woman, “come to the window; hurry up” as they shine their flashlights into the smoke.
Suddenly, the woman is seen at the window with a pet ferret in her arms. The officers grab her and pull her out.
After the rescue, the woman, later identified by police as Mackenzie Shanafelt, ran to her boyfriend.
“I’m OK,” she assured him as they embraced.
Nicolino later described the sensation of being near the house like “being next to a campfire 24/7.”
Emergency crews responded to the fire on Harvest Drive just after 7 p.m. on May 13. Coy said Thursday, a week after the blaze, that he had just started his shift that day and was traveling along Spruce Avenue when he saw a large cloud of black smoke in the distance.
He said he went that way to investigate, thinking the smoke was from burning tires. Halfway to the scene, however, dispatchers advised it was a house fire with a woman reported to be trapped inside.
In a harrowing 7-minute 911 call, Shanafelt can be heard telling the dispatcher that she’s trapped in the basement and doesn’t know where her boyfriend is. She says she can’t get out because there’s so much smoke and she can’t tell where the fire is.
“The smoke is getting in the basement. It’s getting worse,” she can be heard saying. “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”
The dispatcher tells her to keep low and put a cloth or her shirt over her nose and mouth.
“You’re going to be OK,” the dispatcher says.
“I can’t breathe, they gotta hurry,” she replies.
Shortly after you can hear the officers calling to her so they can pull her out of the window.
Coy said he was ecstatic that Shanafelt was alive because he had no idea what the outcome would be.
“I believe everybody did a wonderful job, including the fire departments and everybody else responding,” Coy said. “It was definitely probably one of my career highlights.”
While Shanafelt and her boyfriend were able to get out, two dogs were lost in the fire. Shanafelt, Coy and Nicolino sustained minor injuries. All three were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns. On Thursday, Coy said he actually received a superficial injury on his hand, but that it was smoke inhalation that temporarily sent him to the hospital.
“I wouldn’t say I feel heroic,” Coy said. “I feel like it’s something that we do on a daily basis. It’s something that we all took an oath to do.”
Acting Ravenna Fire Chief Mark Chapple estimated the home’s damage at about $250,000. He said two adjacent homes also had siding damage from the heat. It took until about 9:30 p.m. to extinguish the fire and it was after 10:30 p.m. before firefighters cleared the scene.
Firefighters from Kent, Mantua-Shalersville, Streetsboro, Ravenna Township and Rootstown fire departments provided mutual aid.
“It’s something we’re entrusted with,” Nicolino said. “The people in dispatch contacting other fire departments and the fire department arriving, we worked as one collective unit. It was good to see all of our neighbor communities helping.”
Ravenna Police Capt. Jake Smallfield said he felt a sense of pride reflecting on the situation. He said Coy had recently been promoted to sergeant and to see him take control in such a chaotic situation was great.
“It is one thing to talk about it,” he said, “but actually standing in front of a house feet from fire and knowing someone is inside is surreal.
“In the middle of everything, you’re doing what you believe is right,” Smallfield said. “It’s not until afterwards that you process what you just did. It’s fair to say that they put the lives of other people above their own.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said Thursday.
Reporter Jeff Saunders contributed to this report. Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kaitlynmcg_rc
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