In some cases, a wrong decision can be a lifesaver. Driving home one night, Brendon Birt, 26, would make a mistake that would have a huge impact on the lives of a family in Iowa.
On October 23, Birt was driving home a friend early in the morning. After dropping his friend off, he made a wrong turn and ended up in front of a burning house in Red Oak. It was 2:00 am, so he assumed that people were probably sleeping inside.
He immediately rang 911 for help, and then ran to the side of the house. He started banging on the windows in an attempt to wake up the people inside.
Birt shared, “I just felt like somebody was in there because it was so late at night. I just knew that I had to act quickly. Every second that was going by was just getting worse.”
He added, “I was screaming, yelling, just tried to wake them up because I just figured somebody was in the house. I just acted … there was no time to wait, like, I just realized it’s either now or never.”
Footage from the house’s video doorbell showed the fire quickly spread throughout the porch. Smoke alarms were not going off.
Birt could be seen shouting, “There’s a fire. You got to get out!” Soon after, children could be seen sprinting out from the house into the yard.
Sisters Kindred, 17, Spirit,14, and their little brother Christopher, 8, were the first ones to come out of the home. Chris recalled, “Everything was just black in the living room. There was nothing left of it.”
About a minute later, their 22-year-old brother Bryce Harrison ran out through the smoke and fire. He said, “[I] walked up into an oven of heat and flames on the front, the front wall.”
Birt recalled that moment and said, “They came out the door… I just wanted to break down and cry. I don’t even know these people here.”
The parents were unfortunately not home at the time of the incident. Their mother Tender Lehman was dealing with a family emergency about 750 miles away in Montana.
Their father, on the other hand, was working on the other side of the state. Tender said, “It was awful. I immediately called my kids and got on FaceTime with like the firefighters and stuff. And yeah, it was crazy, but they were safe and that was the main thing.” She made record time driving home to be with her children after hearing about the fire.
The family was so grateful, saying that it was a miracle that Birt happened to be driving home in the area at the right time and was able to wake everyone up.
The fire spread really quickly, but it was a good thing that firefighters arrived right after all the occupants had safely evacuated the house.
Birt said “They told me that the steps to get downstairs when they ran out the door were on fire already. So another five minutes, I don’t think they would have got out.”
A few days later, Tender met the man who fortunately made a mistake while driving home and saved her children. She said, “I’m so incredibly grateful. My kids wouldn’t have made it.”
Tender said that none of the family members suffered any injury. Sadly, five of the family’s dogs died.
Two of those dogs were emotional support animals. The Red Oak Fire Department has yet to determine what caused the fire.
Every day, the Lehman family talks to Birt and they’re helping each other heal from the experience. Since the fire, the Lehman family and their two surviving dogs have been living in a camper lent by a friend, so that they would have a place to stay.
Because of a problem with the roof, the family didn’t have insurance for their home. They had planned to sort out their insurance next month until the fire happened. Consequently, the Lehmans lost everything in the fire.
Tender set up a GoFundMe campaign to aid their family’s recovery from the fire. She said that her children are grieving the loss of their pets as well as the life that they used to have.
However, the parents felt that they were holding out quite well under the circumstances. She said, “You know, they’re incredible. They’re incredible, incredible kids and the level of maturity that they all showed in the wake of that just floors me.”
Fortunately, there are still heroes among us. Earlier this year in Indiana, another man was driving early in the morning through a northwestern Indiana city and saved five people from a burning house. In another incident, a police officer ran into a burning apartment and saved a three-year-old boy.
Who knew that making a wrong turn while driving home would be such a life-changing event? The house might be a total loss, but the Lehmans are safe and can move on together, thanks to Birt and a fateful mistake.
See Birt heroically saving the Lehman children in the video below: