Novato Fire Honors Passers-By for Helping Save a Life

Two women headed to book club gathering noticed a kitchen fire inside a mobile home and helped the occupant to safety.

Two quick-acting Marin women were honored by the Novato Fire District at a recent meeting for preventing a mobile home from going up in flames last year.

Novato resident Nancy Bingham and San Rafael resident Judi Purdom received plaques of appreciation from Fire Marshal Bill Tyler and an ovation from those in attendance.

Bingham and Purdom were walking to a holiday party in the Los Robles Mobile Home Park when they spotted what looked through a window like a crackling fireplace fire. On closer observance, it was a small grease fire on the stove of Nancy Fabian's home in the 500 block of Vera Cruz Avenue.

"Nancy and Judi charged through the gate and went directly into the unlocked home," Tyler said. "Because the ... resident did not have a fire extinguisher, they reportedly used pans and some baking soda to throw on the grease fire, and got it to go out."

"I'm very grateful, and I was surprised to see them," Fabian said Tuesday. "I turned around and there were these two women in my kitchen whom I didn't know. But they helped contain it and staved off a bigger catastrophe."

Speaking at the fire board meeting, Tyler said the passers-by averted a tragic situation by extinguishing the fire with baking soda before firefighters arrived.

“If it weren't for those ladies, the home would have been well involved when we arrived on scene," said Novato Fire Captain Doug Fernandez, one of the firefighters who answered the emergency call. "Perfect strangers saved the resident from what could have been a complete disaster.”

After things settled down that day, Fabian walked down to the book club party and thanked Bingham and Purdom.

On Tuesday, Bingham said she just received a stunning reminder about why people should keep a close eye on a stove whenever it is turned on.

"Just last night I did something stupid — I put an artichoke in water and set it to boil and forgot all about it," she said. "I don't know when the last time it was that I let a pan go dry like that ... at least 30 years. I was sitting right here, so it was no problem. But you have to watch things in the kitchen. (Fabian's) was a grease fire, which is so dangerous. We have to remind folks to keep fire extinguishers and baking soda handy."

Tyler suggests that residents use a timer to remind yourself that the heat is on a stove or oven. Even if you have to leave, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove, he said.

Also, keep pan lids nearby to cover a fire. "Never throw water on a grease fire as it will spread the fire and increase the intensity," he said.

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