When lightning struck an electrical pole near Bender and Thomas during a thunderstorm early Thursday, causing a fire in a nearby house, elementary school teacher Bekim Kjerimi sprang into action to make sure the family got out of the affected structure safely.
“It was like a quick reaction,” Kjerimi said. “I didn’t have time to process at all.”
After he saw the pole was struck, he and his wife noticed the house, as well as a small area near the alley was on fire, the 35-year-old special education resource teacher said. So, he ran out of the house, barefoot, across Bender Blvd. while the storm was going on, and banged on the front door to get the residents attention.
“I actually didn’t have my shoes on at all, because we go barefoot in our house,” Kjerimi said. “I ran. It was raining and lightning and thundering. … I went to the front of the house and there were two cars under the carport. I realized the power line was on and still had power, and was touching the house and the house was on fire.”
The residents didn’t know the house was on fire.
“The guy who came to tell them (the house was on fire) was barefooted,” Danny Serna, the father of one of the home owners told the News-Sun. “If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have known.”
Because lightning struck the power pole, and a power line struck the house, the home not only caught fire, but everything was also electrified at the time, Serna said.
“Even the poles were electrified. They looked like they were on fire, but they are metal poles,” Serna said. “So, my son-in law had to jump out of the house, with my granddaughter, to keep from getting electrocuted.”
“There were electric lines shooting on the ground,” Kjerimi said, being aware live electricity and water on the ground from the storm are not a good combination.
To see the fire, following the link: VIDEO OF FIRE
Other neighbors also started coming out of their houses, and one of them called 911, Kjerimi said. Everyone retreated across the street to a safe distance as Hobbs Fire Department units began to arrive on scene.
Kjerimi said while he had seen his neighbors from a distance — their houses are separated by Bender Blvd. — after everyone was safe, he noticed both parents and the daughter looked familiar.
“I didn’t know who they were at first,” Kjerimi said. “Their daughter, I remembered because she goes to school where I teach. Every morning last year I would walk her from the car, and she would hold my hand, to the cafeteria. I realized I walked with her every morning, and it made me kind emotional. I know them, and I see them every morning, and I talk to them.”
But Kjerimi said he doesn’t feel like a hero, and was just doing what anyone else should have done.
“I feel human,” he said. “I left my son and my wife at my house because I knew they were safe, and I needed to go and see if I can help. … I’m really glad no one was hurt, that’s what is important. I hope everyone would do (what Kjerimi did in making sure everyone was out of the house). Hopefully everyone would look out for each other.”
HFD Deputy Fire Chief Barry Young said fire damage was mostly contained to one bedroom in the southeast corner of the house. However Young said the house is not liveable at the moment.
“There is a lot of smoke damage throughout the house,” Young said. “We had to pull some of the ceiling and cut a roof into the house to check for any possible smaller issues or fires.”
Coronado Elementary School is accepting donations on behalf of the family, Kjerimi said.
“Anything they would like to bring for the family, any kind of donations,” Kjerimi said. “We’re trying to see what else we can do here (at Coronado) for the family as well.”