Fire victim meets people who helped save his life at his Kirkland home | Slideshow

When one Kirkland man awoke to his blaring house alarm on Jan. 5 he was groggy and slightly confused. The fire that tipped the alarm was slowly gaining leverage in his hobby room near the basement.

But Dr. Jim Zimmerman, 71, began to check the doors to see if somebody, maybe a burglar, had accidentally set off the ADT security alarm.

“I was confused, I didn’t know where the fire was,” Zimmerman said. “I just heard a noise and I thought it was the burglar alarm.”

After he smelled smoke, he found the room the fire was coming from and opened the door. Smoke billowed out. The flames were at least 3 feet high.

Just seconds before, 2,500 miles across the country, a 22-year-old woman named Chessie Barrett from Florida was working as an ADT emergency dispatcher. She was in the process of ensuring Zimmerman’s safety.

“My first thought was … you never know if it’s going to be an ‘actual’ or a false alarm,” Barrett said. “I contacted the premise, no answer. So I immediately dispatched the fire department and continued down the call list.”

Back at the Juanita home, Zimmerman dropped to his hands and knees, crawled through thick dark smoke to retrieve a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. Within seconds he turned around and was face to face with Kirkland firefighters who told him they’d take it from there. Firefighters soon discovered it was a tobacco pipe’s fallen embers that had caused the blaze.

“The house would have been heavily damaged had it not been put out,” said Kirkland firefighter Capt. Ivan Huld, who was first on the scene and has been a firefighter for 15 years. “We’re here to serve and help people.”

Zimmerman was escorted out of his home, his house was ventilated and when he was reunited with his wife he said he “cried like a baby.”

“I know that stuff can be replaced but lives cannot. I’m just thankful Chessie was there to get the mechanism of action going behind the scenes while I was walking around the house trying to figure it out,” he said.

Today, nearly a month after the accident, Zimmerman, his wife, people from ADT, Kirkland firefighters and camera crews from local news outlets stood in his living room waiting for Barrett to come out. Holding a bouquet of yellow roses, Zimmerman stretched out his arms as he and Barrett embraced. The camera’s clicked.

Zimmerman and his wife requested to meet Barrett, who flew from Florida, so that they could thank her for her quick response.

“I feel great about it, being located in Florida and then to save a life all the way in Washington, it’s really exciting,” Barrett said. “I recently started (working for ADT) in November of last year so for this right here to be happening as soon as it did, I’m very excited.”

ADT Chief Innovation Officer Arthur Orduna of Boca Raton, Fla. presented the Life Saver Award to Barrett, two Seattle ADT emergency dispatchers, Capt. Huld and two other Kirkland firefighters for their quick response. In addition, Orduna handed a $5,000 check to Kirkland fire Chief Kevin Nalder for the department to use for tools meant to help save victims.

“Like all first responders, they put their lives on hold,” Orduna said, “as they do every day.”


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