The city of Shawnee formally recognized two Gardner Edgerton High School alums during a council meeting on May 26. Brandon and Katie (Leckner) Humble and a third person, Jessica Daale, were recognized for their actions during a Shawnee house fire that killed two people on May 14.
Brandon and Katie live next door to the home that burned.
The pair was getting ready for work on the morning of May 14. Katie noticed what appeared to be smoke or fog outside.
“I saw smoke coming out of the back peak of the house by the gutter,” Brandon said. “I thought maybe I could slap a hose on it.”
Katie went to look for her phone to call the fire department, and Brandon went to get a closer look. When he went downstairs, he realized the fire was much more serious.
“Their back door and their two windows – the fire was against the glass of the windows and I knew there was nothing I could do with a garden hose,” he said.
But he could hear people outside. When he got to the front of the neighbor’s house, another neighbor from down the street, Daale, had stopped her car when she saw the smoke.
Daale banged on the front door.
“The door was locked from the inside,” Brandon said.
The women inside – there were two of them – were going to have to break their door down to get out.
The women came out of the front door, and soon after, the entire door frame was in flames.
They were screaming that there was a baby inside. Daale had opened the window next to the front door at that point, and smoke was pouring out of that bedroom window.
“The rest of the house was on fire at that point,” Brandon said. “The window was obstructed with shelving. There was stuff on the shelves.”
The smoke was so thick, Brandon said he could only see about a foot into the home. There was stuff between the bed and the window.
“It was hectic and chaotic,” Katie said. “I just remember the women telling us there was a baby inside the house that needed to get out.”
A nurse, Katie doesn’t know if it was that training or instinct.
“We didn’t really think at all,” she said. “You knew you had to get whoever you could away from the burning house.”
She led the women away from the house before two small explosions engulfed it in additional flames.
“They were definitely in shock,” Katie said. “They were sitting on the ground in disbelief. They were just sitting there and I helped them off the ground and across the street.”
Brandon continued to search for ways to get into the house or to get others out.
Black smoke was pouring out of the windows at the front of the house, so Brandon ran around to the back of the house. The only window that didn’t have flames in it was a basement door.
“It took me three or four times, and I was able to kick it in,” Brandon said.
Thick, black smoke poured out. He took a few steps into the room.
“It was completely black smoke coming at me,” he said. “I didn’t want to take more than a step or two inside the house. I didn’t know where I was walking in there. Everything in my body told me not to go in there. I’ve never been around a fire like that. Your body just tells you. You can feel the heat, and you can’t breath, and that’s just standing next to it.”
From just inside the door, Brandon started yelling.
“I yelled if anyone was in there,” Brandon said. “Between the second and third time I yelled, I heard an answer back. I just yelled, I’m at the back basement door. I’m not a firefighter. You’re going to have to come to the sound of my voice.”
Then a face appeared in the smoke. Brandon dragged the man by the arm out of the house, and then the man collapsed.
“That’s when the police officer arrived, and then the entourage showed up,” Brandon said.
Seven fire trucks and dozens of first responders. Brandon told them he didn’t know if there were other people in the house.
“When I was standing across the street, I couldn’t see my house,” he said. “The smoke was covering it. My house was completely behind white smoke. I was probably 30 feet from my house, and I couldn’t see it.”
It happened so fast, Brandon said. He estimates his search took less than 15 minutes, shortly after 7 a.m., though the fire wasn’t fully out until sometime after noon.
Two people, including a three-year-old, perished in the fire.
“I wish we could have done more for the other people in the house,” Katie said. “I’m glad there were three survivors.”
GEHS grads honored following Shawnee fire