Young Man Sees Duplex on Fire, Immediately Acts to Save Lives

"I didn't really think about anything else. It was just getting everyone out"
Andrew Thomas September 6, 2018

When people see smoke or fire, their first instinct is to call 911. Then, they usually wait until the fire department arrives.

However, for this young man, waiting was not an option.

Skyler Klevgard was driving to renew his EMT certification on March 24 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, when he noticed the flames.

As he was pulling out of an intersection, he looked left and saw a fire consuming a duplex.

The collapsed duplex after the fire. (Courtesy of Skyler Klevgard)

He immediately drove toward the house and dialed 911.

“I started pounding on the door because it was 7:30 in the morning on Saturday, so I figured there were people sleeping inside. There were a couple cars in the driveway so I figured there were definitely people home,” Klevgard explained to Humanity.

At first, no one answered. Klevgard considered breaking a window. Then someone opened the front door.

But by the time the man opened the front door, the flames were starting to spread across the doorway. Klevgard was going to have to figure out another way to get the residents out of the house.

Since the flames were obstructing the front door, he told the man to try to escape through the garage. 

Klevgard noticed the man had just woken up, and determined the rest of the people inside were most likely still asleep.

“I didn’t really think about anything else. It was just getting everyone out,” he said.

Klevgard met the man in the garage, and asked how many people were inside. There were 10 people inside of the duplex.

Then, he entered the home. The fire was burning through the walls at that point.

(Courtesy of Skyler Klevgard)

Klevgard quickly ran upstairs to make sure no one was there. He then ran back downstairs, and found the residents beginning to walk out of their rooms. He began getting everyone out through the garage.

Despite the danger, the man Klevgard had first encountered went back inside the house for his car keys. He followed him back inside.

“I followed him because I didn’t want him to get caught in the smoke or anything like that. By that time, the kitchen was pretty much completely covered in smoke, and fire was coming through the walls,” Klevgard said.

The man was able to get the first car out of the garage, but insisted on retrieving the second one. However, they were already outside, and it was too late to get the second vehicle.

“I told him not to try, because the one in the garage was on fire at that point. We knew we had everyone out, so I didn’t want to risk someone trying to get another car or anything out,” Klevgard said.

The other side of the duplex was about be engulfed in flames as well, so Klevgard made sure to get everyone out of there too.

The aftermath of the fire. (Courtesy of Skyler Klevgard)

Just when he thought everyone was safe, they realized a man was missing. A woman told Klevgard that he had gone back into the house for the cats.

He got the man’s name from her, and went back into the house after him. There he found the man looking for the cats, and convinced him that it was too late—they had to get out of the house immediately.

Finally, he made sure everyone was accounted for, and they were. Once the fire department arrived, he continued on his way to renew his EMT certification.

Klevgard went to work the following Monday, and no one knew what had happened two days earlier. He also didn’t tell anyone.

“I didn’t saying anything to anyone. I wasn’t really trying to draw attention to myself,” he said. “I figured anyone else would have done the same thing. It wasn’t really a big deal to me.”