Keystone guest is hero in condo fire |

Keystone guest is hero in condo fire

KEYSTONE – The skiing gear Pat Fee wears may as well be a cape and tights as far as Snake River firefighters are concerned – he’s a hero.

The Maryland resident visiting Keystone Resort singlehandedly extinguished a fire in a neighbor’s condo, after alerting other occupants to the danger and beginning an evacuation of the building. Fee also carried the sleeping occupant from the unit after efforts to wake him were unsuccessful.

“I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” Fee said. The place was Key Condo, east of the Peru lift base area. The time was 1:40 a.m. Fee said he got out of bed to use the restroom and when he turned on the fan, smoke came out. He turned the fan on and off several times, and smoke continued to filter through the vents.

“I said, `this is way too odd,’ and then I heard a faint chirping sound that turned out to be a smoke alarm,” Fee said. The former Navy seaman got dressed and left his condo to do a perimeter search. He discovered the unit next door engulfed in smoke. Fee said he banged on the window repeatedly trying to get the attention of anyone inside, but instead woke the visitors in the unit above. Once he explained all the commotion, it didn’t take much convincing to get an evacuation started. After running back to his condo and telling his girlfriend to call 911, Fee returned to the smoking door.

Fearing imminent danger, he let himself in but said the smoke was too thick to see.

“I saw a little light on the wall, and reached for it – it was the lightswitch – and then I could just barely make out a body,” he said. “I shook him, but he wasn’t moving. I had to run out to get more air.”

Refreshed by the clean air, Fee ventured in once more. He searched the back rooms of the unit to make sure no one else was inside, then returned to the living room. He said he shook and shook the sleeping man, but to no avail. “I picked him up and threw him on the floor of our place, then I went back and started throwing snow on the fireplace,” Fee said.

The unidentified sleeping man had placed clothes on the gas fireplace of the unit, presumably to dry them. Firefighters speculated when the fireplace’s thermostat called for heat, burners were lit and ignited the clothes. Firefighters also credited Fee with saving many lives and were impressed with his thorough and quick thinking.

“He did everything right,” said Mike Roll, public information officer for the county’s northern fire districts. “He even went back and was waiting at the door when the firefighters arrived.”

Snake River Fire community services officer Ray Neville said the department will present Fee with a certificate of appreciation for his efforts. Fee credited his Navy experience as preparation for a cool head in an emergency. On a ship, he said, the sailors are the firefighters. So, what does a hero do after saving the day?

“We tried to sleep, but that wasn’t so easy,” Fee said. “But, we got up and went snowshoeing this morning. It was beautiful.”

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