Firefighters rescued twin 5-year-old boys from a burning Northland home Friday morning after an older sister escaped the blaze and ran to a neighbor’s house to get help.
Ambulances took the boys, Abed and Zahed Ali, to Children’s Mercy Hospital. They were transferred to the pediatric burn unit at the University of Kansas Hospital, where they were in critical condition Friday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The fire broke out about 9:45 a.m. in a one-story home in the 4100 block of North Jackson Avenue in Kansas City, North.
The boys’ 15-year-old sister, Areej Ahmed, had stayed home from her sophomore classes at North Kansas City High School to babysit them while their mother was at Children’s Mercy Hospital with another daughter, a 17-year-old.
Areej said she awoke to the smell of smoke and then heard a smoke alarm sounding. She escaped out a window and ran across the street to get help.
Neighbor Frances Lombardo was watching a movie when she heard Areej pounding on her door. Lombardo called 911 before racing with Areej back to the home to find the boys.
Gary Wilbanks, another neighbor, joined them. He recently had installed new carpet inside the home and knew its interior. He first tried to enter through the front door, but the thick smoke knocked him back.
“They always say, ‘Get low,’ you know?” Wilbanks said. “But there was no way.”
He ran back outside and circled around to a rear bedroom. He found a chair and a piece of wood about the size of a bed slat and began trying to break the bedroom window.
“It was double-pane glass,” Wilbanks said. “It took me around eight or nine tries.”
When he finally broke through, he could see one of the boys.
“I kept yelling, ‘Give me your hand!’ ” Wilbanks said.
The child hesitated. Wilbanks asked Areej to join him on the chair. She did and told the boy to stretch out his hand. But Wilbanks, given his precarious perch on the chair, had little leverage while trying to hoist the child out.
“I just couldn’t lift him,” he said.
Firefighters arrived and removed the boys one at a time from the home, Wilbanks said.
Their mother, Amira Ali, is an Arabic interpreter at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. She had spent the night at Children’s Mercy with her 17-year-old daughter.