DANVERS — Hobart Street resident Robin Kellow was upstairs in the shower Tuesday evening when she heard one of the young hockey player she hosts, Martin Moioffer, yelling something and running up and down the stairs.
What Kellow didn't know was a couch downstairs had caught fire, somehow. A portion of the house would eventually be engulfed in flames.
Over the past year, Moioffer, an 18-year-old Wisconsin teen, has been living with Kellow and three other teammates so they can skate for the East Coast Elite League's East Coast Spartans hockey team.
It was a good thing Moioffer was home at the time, the town's deputy fire chief said.
"I can say with a good degree of confidence he saved her life," said Danvers Deputy fire Chief Robert Amerault. The cause of the two-alarm fire was accidental, but it is still under investigation, Amerault said.
He would not speculate as to the cause of the blaze in the single-family home at 175 Hobart St., which was reported at 8:20 p.m. No one was injured.
If Kellow had been home alone in the shower, things might have been different, Amerault said.
"The outcome could have been tragic," Amerault said. "It was very lucky he was home."
'The house is on fire!'
When the fire broke out, Moioffer had been playing video games upstairs, he said.
"They (firefighters) think that it was a candle downstairs and I was upstairs playing video games and I smelled the smoke before I heard any alarms or anything like that," Moioffer said. "And I went to check it out, and sure enough, half the couch was on fire."
He ran upstairs, grabbed a towel from his room to put out the fire, knocked on the bathroom door and yelled for Kellow to get out . He soaked a towel in the sink and ran back downstairs to try and smother the fire.
"He was yelling and saying something and he was running up and down the stairs," Kellow said. "'You've got to get out of the house, you've got to get out of the house!'" Kellow said Moioffer was yelling. "'The house is on fire!"
Keller said when she got out of the shower, she wrapped herself in a towel and opened the bathroom door, where she was greeted with thick, black smoke. She ran into a railing and became disoriented. An occupational therapist, she knows the protocol of how to deal with a fire in a facility like a nursing home, but all that training went out the window. She panicked.
"I had no idea where I was in my own house and I lived here for 13 years," Kellow said.
"Then I ran back upstairs to check on Robin and make sure everything was all right," Moioffer said.
By this time, the smoke was so thick he knew Kellow could not find her way out. She was yelling she could not see and Moioffer said the smoke was so think, he could not tell where her voice was coming from, upstairs or downstairs.
"I had turned my phone light on and she saw that and I was able to get to her and I helped her out," Moioffer said.
"He literally came and got me and led me out," Kellow said.
Outside, Moioffer dialed 911 and gave the phone to Kellow. Then she asked where Sparky, her dog, was. He ran back upstairs and found Sparky in the room where he had been playing video games. He grabbed the Jack Russell terrier and took it outside.
When he discovered the fire, he tried filling a laundry tote in the kitchen sink, so he went back inside and tossed some water on the fire, but there was nothing he could do, he realized, so he left.
While they were standing in the backyard, the windows of the home blew out, Kellow said.
Firefighters were greeted with fire lapping out the windows on the bottom floor, reaching up to the second floor. Crews from Middleton, Peabody and Beverly arrived at the scene, while Salem, Topsfield and Wenham provided station coverage.
With everyone out of the house, Amerault said fire Capt. Jamie Shafner ordered a transitional attack, knocking down the fire with two hoses from the outside before going in the front door to extinguish the blaze. Shafner also captured the initial attack on his helmet cam.
"They did a nice job of knocking it down," Amerault said.
The fire damage was contained to the first floor, but there was extensive smoke damage throughout. Amerault did not have a damage estimate. The property is valued at $416,800 in town records.
Neighbors Jennifer and Walt Malin of Forest Street came to Kellow's aid with clothes and comfort. The Red Cross arrived and gave them a gift card to buy clothes. She was put up in the Comfort Inn overnight. They were able to get some clothes from the home on Wednesday morning. Inside the house, Kellow found huge holes in the ceiling and a hole in the roof.
Moioffer lives in Wisconsin, but Kellow hosts him so he can play hockey for the elite hockey team. He graduated June 8 from Danvers High.
Others living with Kellow this year include Alejandro "Alex" Sedillo of Colorado, who also graduated from Danvers High and has returned home a few days ago; recent Danvers High graduate Trey Stober, 18, of Florida who is still living with her, and Colin Stewart, 17, who was a junior at Danvers High this past year.
Kellow's three grown sons are out of the house.
Steward said he was at Target at the time of the fire.
Moioffer called him and Stewart could not tell what was going on.
"I just came home after I got the call. It was like a wow or a shock moment because I saw the whole fire department outside," Stewart said.
Moioffer said he does not consider himself a hero, he was "just doing what was going through my mind when it happened."
"I told his dad," Kellow said, "Anybody that will listen, he saved my life and my dog's life. That's a hero, I think, for sure."
Moioffer said Wednesday around noon, as they were moving out of the Comfort Inn to another hotel, that he had yet to tell his mom because she was traveling in Nepal.
However, he had spoken with his father while playing video games, and his father usually asks his son if anything exciting happens to let him know.
About 20 minutes after they spoke, after the fire, he called his dad, again.
"I figured that qualified for a call," said Moioffer, who plans to stay with Kellow and play junior hockey in Maine.
Kellow's house karma
Kellow is no stranger to bad luck with her four-bedroom home.
It actually sits in the Salem Village Historic District, and while the home has no historic significance it sits on land where the old Salem Village Meeting House once stood. It's a meeting house that was central in the Salem witch hysteria of 1692.
In 2009, a microburst hit. The severe downdraft toppled a tree. It glanced off the back of the house and landed in the pool, taking all the patio furniture with it.
A few weeks after the storm, the chimney toppled onto the trailer in the driveway where she and her three teenage boys at the time were living. Water seeped into the home, buckled ceilings, damaged wiring, and ruined her possessions. In the spring of 2010, the trailer caught fire and wiped out most of her belongings.
The reconstruction of the home, built in 1948, ran into roadblocks.
She had to wrangle with the Historic District Commission as her builder had pulled permits but failed to seek its permission before starting work. She faced fines because the builder initially used vinyl siding instead of clapboards. She also had to fight with her insurance company to get what she had been owed, she said at the time.
She did not have enough money to complete the job, so over the years, she would take her tax refund and do some work. It took about 10 years to get the home finished. Two weeks ago, she had sheet rock in the sun room painted for a graduation party.
"To know I have to do this again, it will be beyond depression," she said.
Kellow's friend, Danvers resident Carla King, has started a fundraising effort to fix the home. She started a Gofundme page, and opened an account called the 'Kellow Fire Fund' at Salem Five Bank.
"She's an amazing friend and I she would do the same for me," King said.
You can watch Danvers firefighter arrive at the fire at https://www.facebook.com/DanversFire/videos/312783269670777/
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.