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Paige Wilkie believes in fate – especially after the events of Nov. 10.
Wilkie and her best friend, Madison Johnson, assisted an elderly woman in evacuating from her home in southwest Minot on Tuesday after noticing smoke coming from the garage.
Wilkie and Johnson were delivering a meal to the home as volunteers for the Minot Commission on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program. The friends had driven this particular delivery route before, but on this day, they were running a little behind schedule.
“We were running a little late that morning – you know how some days go. We got there about 11:45 a.m. and we usually get there about 11:25,” Wilkie said, noting that the instructions for that residence said to put the meal inside the front door on the counter.
“So I knocked on the door and went in, and the resident said “Could you help me turn this off?” Her smoke alarm was going off,” Wilkie said. “I noticed the house smelled kind of like burnt toast or something. I asked her if she had a broom because the alarm was way up high. She opened the door to the garage to get a broom and a bunch of black smoke came in.”
Wilkie quickly realized there was good reason the smoke alarm was activated.
“When I saw the smoke, I said to her, ‘OK, we’re going to go outside and get in my car,’ ” Wilkie said. “She wanted to get her shoes, but they were way across the room and she had slippers on with pretty hard soles, so I told her we’d get her shoes later. I just wanted to get both of us out of the house at that point.”
As they exited the home, Wilkie waved to Johnson, who had remained in the vehicle, to call 911. They helped the resident into the vehicle, and parked in a neighbor’s driveway so they were away from the home and out of the fire department’s way.
They waited for first responders to show up, including the Minot Fire Department and an ambulance service. After the resident was attended to by medical personnel, Wilkie and Johnson continued on their Meals on Wheels route.
Battalion Chief Jason Babinchak said the home and garage suffered smoke damage and the garage suffered minor fire damage; the cause of the small garage fire remains under investigation. No one was injured in the incident, but the scenario could have been much worse if it weren’t for Wilkie and Johnson.
“The volunteers did everything right. They’re the heroes,” Babinchak said.
Meals on Wheels delivers meals to residents age 60 and over, and the volunteers sometimes could be the only person the meal recipients see that day, meaning the program also serves as sort of a welfare check for the participants. That thought wasn’t lost on Wilkie, who was happy the resident wasn’t injured and the home didn’t suffer major damage.
“I’m so glad we were there that day. It was like fate,” Wilkie said. “I just think what might have happened had we been there at our usual time at 11:25 and left before the fire started. I’m not sure she would have left the house in time by herself.”