Woman thanks Pa. firefighters who pulled her from flames
Eleven firefighters were honored for their heroics, one had only been on the job two months at the time
By Don Spatz
The Reading Eagle
READING, Pa. — The last thing Christine Kramer remembers from Oct. 6, 2013, was going to bed.
The next was waking up in a hospital four months later.
What happened in between she'll never remember, but will always be grateful for, because two city firefighters saved her from a fire in her home at 718 Ritter St., a fire that caused so much smoke that she collapsed upstairs.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Kramer said last Monday as the fire department awarded Medals of Merit to the two firefighters: Steven Ginder, 29, and Justin Auker, 25, who'd been on the job only two months at the time of the fire. "Without them, I wouldn't be here."
Nine other firefighters and paramedics were presented with unit citations.
"Your actions that day were in the highest tradition of the fire service," Second Deputy Chief Michael Lessar Jr. said as he presented the awards at a City Council session.
"This brings great credit to the city of Reading, the Reading Department of Fire and Rescue Services, your family and yourself," he said.
The way Lessar describes it, early on Oct. 7, 2013, city crews responding to the fire were told someone was trapped upstairs.
Ginder and Auker took the stairs to find her. They wore airpacks, but visibility was zero because of the heavy smoke, and they didn't have a hose line to protect themselves.
Still, they found Kramer unconscious on the floor, and got her out of the building.
But they had help.
Firefighter Anthony Flowers got a hose line into the first floor to keep the flames away from the stairs, allowing the rescue.
Firefighters Ronald Frey and Patrick Griffin and Lt. Thomas Rehr also helped get Kramer outside, where a bevy of others -- paramedic Michael Grow, firefighter/EMT Timothy Obrien, Lt. Scott Wentzel, paramedic Nik Knauer and firefighter/EMT Jeremy Grove -- revived her.
Kramer, now 62, said Monday that she was told she'd been on a ventilator for four weeks because of the smoke inhalation. She was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown, and later moved to Chester County Hospital in West Chester.
"It was very overwhelming," she said, between posing for photos and hugging Ginder and Auker.
The rescue is one of the reasons the city is proud of its firefighters, said Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer.
Fire Chief William I. Stoudt Jr. said the crews did an outstanding job, and the awards don't provide enough credit.
"Most people don't know how important you are, until you save somebody's life," Council President Francis G. Acosta told the recipients.
Ginder was modest.
"It was nothing none of these guys wouldn't have done," he said. "We happened to be in the right place at the right time."
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