Heroic efforts by stranger saves Altoona family from fire

Studio 814

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Wednesday, September 16, was different for many reasons. Whether it was by luck, coincidence, or divine intervention, it could be the reason the Rodgers’ family are alive today.

Stephanie Rodgers and her 12-year-old son Eli live in a house on the 600 block of East Sixth Avenue. Eli has been moving his things into the attic, his new room. Having slept up in the attic for the last several months, Tuesday night was too cold. He decided to sleep downstairs with his mother in her room.

Andy Butterbaugh lives a few blocks away from the Rodgers family and has never met them in his life. He walks to work everyday, five days a week, in the alley behind the Rodgers’ home at around 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. However, he had missed work early in the week due to a knee injury and was going into work an hour early on Wednesday to make up the missed time.

Andy was in the alley at around 5:00 a.m. when he noticed the smell of wood burning. He says, “I thought to myself, ‘there was no way this early in the season that anybody was burning wood in their wood burner.'”

That’s when he saw smoke billowing from the Rodgers’ home. Without hesitation, he acted. “I made my way down to the door. I banged on the door as loud as I could.” He descrived, ” I said, ‘is anybody awake? You need to get out of your house, your house is on fire!'”

Stephanie recalls, “At first I’m like, ‘why is somebody pounding on the door?’ And I’m sleeping. I was so, you know.. I was mind-boggled. I didn’t know what was going on.”

An electrical fire had started in the vacant attic, where all of Eli’s belongings were and he wasn’t. Stephanie says, “The night before, him and my nephew slept up in that attic. So, I thank God that it wasn’t that night they were up there because I don’t know what would have happened.”

They were all able to get out of the home safely, including their pets. Andy just happened to be at the right place at the right time. He explains, “I think I was put here for a reason and I think they are pretty sure of that too.”

Stephanie says, “He’s an angel, because, I don’t know. I don’t even know what to say about that. I just thank God. I just thank Andy.”

They house is currently condemned and they are waiting for the insurance agents to examine the building. Eli lost all of his things including clothes, his PlayStation, and even his Chrome Book that was given to him by the school for virtual learning.

Formerly strangers, Andy and Rodgers family now have a connection for live. Stephanie says, “He’s going to be my friend until I die. I’m going to have him over for dinner , and I’m going to try and take care of this man and his family, and I’m never not going to be close to that family. He saved my life, and my son. I mean, he’s going to be my friend forever.”

The family has a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of their lost items.

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