Rock Hill parents rescue their children from burning home

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJuly 2, 2014 

— The sound of glass popping shook Sara Renteral out of her sleep early Wednesday.

“I was just like, what is going on?”

She ran to her bedroom door. She smelled the smoke. Then, she saw it. As she moved into the hallway, Renteral was met by a wall of fire.

Her first thought: “Get your kids out.”

It was between 4 and 5 a.m. Wednesday. Sara and Noah Renterals’ four children were asleep.

Sara dashed to the room her two daughters, Emily, 9, and Valerie, 6, share. No smoke.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re OK,’” she said.

Relieved, she jolted them awake.

“Get up, let’s go, it’s fire,” she told them.

Flames were tearing into the family’s Rock Hill home on Bynum Avenue in the Boyd Hill neighborhood.

One wall, “top to bottom,” was in flames, said Sara Renteral, 27.

The TV burned. The coffee table burned. The furniture burned. Even the floor burned.

“We had to pass in front of the fire,” she said, “because there was no other choice.”

Flames blocked the other exits. The front door was the quickest way out.

Holding her 1-year-old son, Axel, in her arms, Sara led her children to the front door. Noah Renteral, 26, covered his daughters with a sheet to shield them from the smoke.

Frantic and distressed, the Renterals’ 3-year-old son, Aldo, tried running away from the living room. Everywhere he turned, there was more fire.

“Please come here, come here,’” Sara Renteral begged her son. “I got really scared because he run away from me.”

Aldo returned to her. She saw that his diaper had started to burn.

She reached for the doorknob and turned. The door opened. The family escaped. Sara Renteral called 911.

“I got all my children out,” she said.

Sara Renteral suffered second-degree burn on her right foot. Daughter Emily suffered from a thermal burn.

The American Red Cross will shelter the family at a hotel for the next few days, and help them with food and clothing.

Fire officials have determined that the blaze was an accident, but the investigation continues, said Rock Hill Fire Battalion Chief Rusty Myers.

The fire caused about $20,000 in damage, he said.

The Renterals’ account of their escape was chilling for the Rock Hill firefighters, who battle fires and run into perilous situations for a living.

“On a scale of one to 10,” Myers said, “it’s a 10.”

“When you are trying to get your children out” of a burning home, Myers said, “and fire’s licking at your feet, literally and you survive with all of your children, you’re extremely fortunate.”

‘We’re alive’

Late Wednesday morning, the smell of smoke lingered over Bynum Avenue. The walls of the Renterals’ home, which they have lived in for only a year, are charred. There is broken glass along the walkway leading to the front door.

But, all Sara Renteral could think is “we’re alive.”

She’s seen stories of people who die in fires.

Noah Renteral calls his family’s survival “a blessing.”

Fire officials hope the Renterals harrowing story will be a wake-up call for many others.

“Smoke detectors ... smoke detectors ... smoke detectors,” Myers said. His message: Install them. Change the batteries twice a year. Check them monthly. Clean them regularly.

“The earlier warning you have, the better chance of survival you’ll have,” Myers said.

The Renterals’ said smoke detectors were installed in their home, but they did not go off.

“Oh my God, we were so close,” Sara Renteral said, sobbing. “We were really close to not being here.”

“If not for that glass popping,” she said, “we would be dead.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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