HAM LAKE, Minn.(WCCO) — It was a final act of heroism. A woman risked her own life to help others get out of a burning home.
Police said Carol Jean Wood, 55, alerted a 78-year old mother and her son to the fire that was happening in their Ham Lake home.
Neighbors said she then went back inside to get a robe for the woman so she wouldn’t be cold. Wood never made it out. She had just had a birthday on Oct. 5.
The fire started at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 3600 block of Bunker Lake Boulevard in Ham Lake. A relative said they received a call from someone inside the home and then called 911.
“Some of our deputies arrived there, they were met by several adults in the yard of this home, telling them that there’s still someone in the house,” said Commander Paul Sommer with the Annoka County Sheriff’s Office.
After assessing the flames, deputies decided they were helpless.
“There was really no way they could have made entry into the home without being killed themselves,” Sommer said.
Deputies learned the woman killed was the caretaker, 55-year old Carol Wood. She was found dead in the main floor bedroom.
Neighbors told police Wood first assisted Lois Means out of the home, and then alerted her 52-year old son Michael Means. It was then that she went back in the house to get the woman a robe.
“She is definitely a hero in this situation. She’s somebody who not only did she save this woman’s life and her son, but now she’s concerned about her being out in the cold,” Sommer said.
Police said many times in these situations intense smoke works to displace the oxygen in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
“People in these situations are quickly overcome by smoke, and smoke generally is what kills people not the flames,” Sommer said.
Means, 78, is being treated at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids for smoke inhalation. Police said the take-away from Thursday’s tragedy: Have a plan and know when it’s time to execute.
“There’s no object in your home that’s more important than your safety or your life,” Sommer said.
Police said Wood was a friend of the family who moved in just three weeks ago to help take care of Lois Means.