Two teens and a 54-year-old man saved the life of a neighbor who set herself ablaze inside her Upper Darby house Wednesday night, police said.
"I would have never thought I could do something like this," said Kareem Avery, 17, one of the hero teens.
About 7:30 p.m., on Keystone Avenue near West Chester Pike, Raymond Joseph was sitting in his back yard when he saw a flame coming through his 44-year-old neighbor's kitchen door, said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood.
Joseph, a corrections officer at SCI Chester, saw that his neighbor was on fire and that there were several other small fires in the living room, police said.
When he discovered the door to the house was bolt-locked, Joseph said that he screamed for help and that Avery and his friend Lsmith Keo, 17, both sophomores at Upper Darby High School, ran to help.
"The neighbor [Joseph] came out the door yelling 'Fire!' then we just went over there to go help," said Keo. "It was an instinct."
Keo said that he punched out a window to the house with his fist and Avery climbed inside.
He unlocked the door and Joseph ran inside, put her on the floor and patted out the fire. Joseph then got water and put out the other small fires while Avery said he called 9-1-1.
"I got the fire out on her, but by that point, most of her clothes had been burned off," Joseph said. "Most of what she was saying was garbled but she made some comment about wanting to kill herself."
The woman was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition yesterday, police said.
Police have responded to the woman's house 10 times since last year, all for domestic-disturbance issues, Chitwood said. On Monday, officers served a protection-from-abuse-order eviction notice against the woman's live-in boyfriend at her request. He is not believed to be connected to Wednesday night's incident.
Chitwood said police know that the woman set herself and various items in her house on fire because, when they responded, she kept stating that if they stopped her from killing herself, she would only do it later.
"What they did was a heroic act," Chitwood said. "They probably saved a catastrophe in the neighborhood because it's a rowhouse block and who knows what would have happened if the fire kept going."
But Joseph deflected the praise.
"There's a lot of people that just do their job every day and they don't get recognized, so I don't think I should be recognized for anything," he said. "I did what any decent person would do for another human being."