Three shot-putting members of Germantown High's track team, along with an opponent from West Philadelphia, yesterday saved a woman from a house fire that broke out shortly after 3 p.m. on East Gorgas Lane near Baldwin Street, across the street from Germantown's track-football stadium. Fire officials said the one-alarm blaze, which produced heavy smoke on the second floor of the home, was brought under control in about 15 minutes.
Stephany Tate-Yancey, who coaches the Bears' boys' and girls' teams, said the four youths - Dwyne Hall, Sharod Graham and Jerome Plant of Germantown, and Kyle Young of West Philadelphia - were just beginning competition in the southeast corner of the stadium when thick, black smoke could be seen pouring out of the house.
"There was a lot of commotion. It was really scary," Tate-Yancey said. "These young men just took off running. They scaled the fence [about 8 feet high] and went right over. No hesitation.
"I'm so proud of them. You hear so many negative things about Germantown and West Philly. And here are these kids, risking their lives."
Hall said the woman they helped was elderly.
Tate-Yancey was under the impression the woman had a prosthesis.
"I didn't notice that, and I didn't hear about that," Hall said. "But if so, God bless her."
Hall said the woman was inside the house, on the first floor, when he and the others arrived.
"Her dog had already come out," Hall said. "She was getting ready to go back upstairs because she was trying to find her kittens. We told her she couldn't worry about her kittens. That she had to come out. Then, we guided her out.
"The woman didn't say much. She was in shock."
The woman, Hall added, was wearing only undergarments, as if maybe she'd been roused from a nap.
"I gave her the sweatpants from my track suit, and Sherrod gave her his hoodie," he said.
When asked about his bravery, Hall said, "I just reacted, that's all. We all did. We just went. That woman was in trouble and needed help. The shot-put area was right there. We were the closest. It was rough over there. Lots of thick, dark smoke.
"Someone did call 911 when they first saw that. We didn't know if someone was in the house. But then we could hear a woman yelling for help."
This was the second act of fire-related heroism by Public League athletes this school year. Last September, while walking home from practice, Overbrook football players Yusuf Bangura, Calem Bridgette and Markeyse Carter rescued an elderly woman from a burning house near 56th and Girard.
Once this fire was doused, the meet resumed. Tate-Yancey said Hall and Graham placed third and fourth, respectively, in the shot put, while Young grabbed sixth.
"It was no problem," Hall said, of continuing to compete. "I was coughing a little, at first, and I did smell like smoke, but . . . "
Young, Tate-Yancey said, was the picture of great-young-kid throughout the meet.
"After doing something like that," she said, "you'd think he'd want to go sit in the stands and rest. Later in the meet, we had to get the hurdles onto the track. He wasn't too far away and he came running over to help me."
Staff writer David Gambacorta contributed to this report.