by Paul Mullin
Shawn Kildea doesn’t consider himself a hero.
In fact, he said that if he weren’t “such a fat slob,” he would not have been in the right place at the right time to save his neighbors from a house fire in mid-December.
Kildea, a Rider instructor who teaches primarily in the field of television production, was writing his dissertation at midnight on Dec. 15, 2007, when he went outside to his garage and saw what looked like smoke coming from his neighbor, ’91 Rider graduate Brad LeBlanc’s, chimney.
“It looked like there was a ton of smoke coming out, and there was a sort of orange glow behind it, but from where I was I couldn’t see flames,” Kildea said.
Kildea said he ran back into the house to grab his cell phone and get a better view of the house from his front yard. When he did, he could see that the peak of the roof was in flames.
The Rider instructor and alumnus then ran into the LeBlanc’s home, “yelling and screaming,” and trying to wake the sleeping family of four.
“By the time I got down the [main] hallway he and his wife were up and confused and scared,” Kildea said.
Kildea, LeBlanc and his wife, Annette, and their two daughters, ages 6 and 4, ran out of the house while Kildea dialed 911 on his cell phone.
Kildea said that within 90 seconds he heard the sirens, and a few minutes later the fire department arrived.
According to Kildea, the situation appeared to be under control in about 10 minutes, but crews continued to work on the house for another hour, cutting holes in the roof with chainsaws to expose the entirety of the fire.
Kildea said he was nervous during the ordeal, but felt in control of the situation.
“I wouldn’t say I was panicked because I think I knew what should be done, but I was definitely scared,” he said. “I remember trying to dial the phone was tough, but running in, opening the door, screaming and yelling and rousing everyone and bringing them out was OK.”
Kildea said that the reason he went outside in the first place was to get some soda, because “as people who work on their dissertations often do, at midnight I decided to start eating.”
“I consider Brad very lucky,” Kildea said. “I’m sure anyone walking by and seeing the house on fire would have paid him the courtesy of running in and waking them up.”
The LeBlancs will be displaced from their home for about six months, but are staying at another location in Lawrenceville until that time.