Nancy Bingham and Judi Purdom walked past a Novato home a few days ago and saw a nice fire burning inside.
"I thought, 'What a beautiful fireplace.' Then we said, 'That's not a fireplace, that's in the kitchen!'" Purdom said.
It was not a nice fire at all. Now, the two women — Bingham from Novato and Purdom of San Rafael — are being heralded by the Novato Fire District for their amateur firefighting expertise.
They were on their way to a meet other friends for a book club holiday party Tuesday when they spotted the fire in a unit at the Los Robles Mobile Home Park. They averted a tragic situation by extinguishing a small grease fire, Fire Marshal Bill Tyler said in a release.
Fire Captain Doug Fernandez added, “If it weren't for those ladies, the home would have been well involved when we arrived on scene. Perfect strangers saved the resident from what could have been a complete disaster.”
As Bingham and Purdom grabbed baking soda and pan lids to quell the flames, the homeowner called 911 at 6:42 p.m. in the 500 block of Vera Cruz Avenue. Fire crews got to the park, just east of Highway 101 between Bel Marin Keys and Hamilton, and found the flames already doused by Bingham and Purdom.
The women were chatting as they headed to another home on Vera Cruz when they realized what was happening. The homeowner, a woman in her 70s, was running frantically back and forth inside. The investigation concluded that she was initially unaware of the fire in her kitchen despite that a smoke alarm went off, Tyler said. The woman had been in the back bedroom with the TV turned up too loud, he said.
"We didn't have time to hesitate. We just said 'Oh my God, we've gotta go help,'" Purdom said.
"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."
Tyler said quick actions by Bingham and Purdom were heroic.
"They certainly saved the day,” he said.
"I guess we have a couple extra points getting into heaven now."
Tyler said the episode is an excellent reminder to never leave the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food and check it regularly. Use a timer to remind yourself. Even if you leave 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.
For more facts, tips, and information, go to www.novatofire.org.