By: Sean Crosby
At 5:30, early Tuesday morning, on November 23, 2011, most people in the town of New Castle, PA were sleeping, except, for a few. One of the few awake was 74 year old Charlene McMasters, whose house had caught on fire. At just the right time, Justin Ritchie (McMaster’s neighbor) came and responded immediately to the emergency.
Ritchie, a 14 year old freshman at the local New Castle High School, arrived at the burning house in a flash and reacted immediately without thinking. Ritchie commented on what he had heard. “I was sleeping and everything and heard my dog barking… and then I heard someone yelling, ‘Help me’!” Ritchie grabbed a wooden ladder and put it under her second story bedroom window. McMasters quoted, “And I took a couple of steps down on the ladder and it busted in half and I hit the ground really hard. I fell about 10-feet.” By the time McMasters was rescued, the New Castle Fire Department showed up.
New Castle Assistant Fire Chief David Joseph says, “The fire started on the first floor of McMasters’ home and the cause of the fire is still unknown at this time.” Chief Joseph commented on Ritchie’s heroic efforts by saying, “He seemed nervous, kinda scared, kinda humbled.” Joseph also said, “He did good. In this day, all you hear is bad stuff-drugs, breaking into houses. A 14 year-old kid did something good.” McMasters was later transported to the hospital and was treated for a broken pelvis after the fall from the ladder. McMasters says she is thankful for Justin Ritchie and his heroic efforts to save her from the fire.
While in the hospital, McMasters reflected on the rescue stating, “He really tried. Without the ladder it would have been a lot worse.” McMasters stayed in the hospital for one day and is now with her son. She is lucky to be alive and to be able to celebrate another Thanksgiving Day with her family.