Couple That Helps Wounded Vets Praises Firefighters’ Response to Attic Fire

Ted and Laurie Hollander are praising the lightning-fast and thoughtful response by Easton’s first responders to an April fire at their house as they pay tribute to the nation’s fallen service members on Memorial Day. 

“We give the police and firefighters rave reviews,” Laurie said. “If we hadn’t all been homebound due to COVID-19, our house would have burned down.”

The Hollanders, founders of Help Our Military Heroes, an Easton-based nonprofit that provides adapted minivans for severely wounded and sickened service members, were working in their home offices on the afternoon of April 21. They were startled when their fire alarm sounded and ADT called.

“They asked, ‘Do you hear it, do you smell smoke?’” Laurie said. She and Ted did smell smoke, and they rushed to get outside where they saw smoke coming from the attic roof. They were prepared with smoke alarms, five fire extinguishers and a fire plan, she said. Ted shoved a flash drive about their business into his pocket and immediately emptied the fire extinguishers as they awaited the firefighters’ arrival.

It didn’t take long. “They were here so fast, in three or four minutes,” Laurie said. The fact that the volunteer firefighters were working from home, as they were, hastened the response, she said. Fairfield, Newtown, Stepney, Trumbull and Weston  fire departments also responded and provided mutual aid.

Fire Chief Steve Waugh said at the time that firefighters saw smoke showing from the roof line, gained access to the house, pulled a hand line onto the roof and quickly soaked down what was burning. There wasn’t a lot of smoke and water damage, and they managed to rapidly place a tarp over a hole they had to cut in the roof right as a thunderstorm was fast approaching.

“It was pitch dark, and we could hear thunder as they were tarping the roof,” Laurie said. The firefighters kept working and directed Laurie and Ted to go into the garage for shelter. The firefighters worked as fast as humanly possible so they could secure the house and get back to their fire houses in preparation for the impending storm. 

They had to turn off power to the house for safety’s sake, but the house was still habitable, and the Hollanders were able to weather the storm and stay through the night. 

Now, more than a month later, Ted and Laurie  are incredibly thankful for the quick and caring action of the firefighters and first responders. “We love this town, we love our first responders,” Laurie said.

It’s been a tough time for the Hollanders, between the fire and the fact that five fundraisers for Help Our Military Heroes that were scheduled between April to July have either been cancelled or rescheduled. They are working on a virtual fundraiser in July and trust it will help things improve. 

The vans they supply to wounded service members restore the independence, mobility and freedom the service members and veterans experienced prior to enduring severe wounds, injuries or illnesses after serving their country, Laurie said. 

All donations come from individuals, foundations, corporations and fund-raisers. The founders and board members pay for all non-program expenses, with 100% of contributions going to wounded veterans.

Learn more and find out how to help at Help Our Military Heroes.

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