It all started with a Chair.

  If you know someone who has a hard time standing up on their own, you know how great a medical electronic lift chair could be. Eugene Shannon thought the same thing when he bought his lift chair but he was sadly mistaken. A chair that was supposed to help with everyday life did the exact opposite. It helped to start a fire that would destroyed the home of Eugene and Donald Shannon.  

“I looked down cause it was hot and ‘Pow!’ Flames were flying out by legs,” Eugene told us as he reflected on the fire. 

The Shannon brothers had been living in their house for 44 years. Eugene Shannon, 80, and Donald Shannon, 76, were both prepared for the fire with smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher but were still not able to fight this fire alone. Thankfully they both made it out but with a very interesting story indeed. 

Eugene Shannon was sitting in his lift chair when all of a sudden it caught on fire. He shockingly jumped out of the chair and starting yelling for his brother Donald, who was sleeping upstairs. Since Eugene has a hard time walking, Donald grabbed the fire extinguisher but the tank was too small for the large flames and it quickly ran out. Donald then tried using a bucket of water but when he turned around to refill it the flames and smoke were already too much to bare and they had to get out. 

As they made their way out of the back door, neighbor, Charles Haywood, had noticed the smoke and ran over to try and help. 

“After I kicked in the front door I saw Mr. Eugene already heading out the back door so I ran over to help him,” said Charles. The fire department was quickly called after the men had exited the house.

“My heart was pounding until, I saw them and they were ok. Thank the Lord they made it out,” said Katie Johnson, Eugene and Donald’s caretaker, who showed up just in time to see the fire in full swing. Katie has been working with the Shannon brothers for a couple of years now and couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw her client’s house on fire. 

Even though Eugene’s lift chair was only two years old, Firemen say the wiring and wattage underneath the chair was tangled and not up to par, setting off sparks and the fire. 

The Red Cross was able to help the Shannon brothers by giving them each a bag of personal toiletries, food and a comforting smile until other family members arrived. 

Prior medical problems have left the men reliant on walkers, but those walkers were left behind when the fire struck. Donald thanks his adrenaline for getting him up and out of the fire by saying, “My body just got up and moved!”

Fires like this affect families every day.  Use these fire safety tips and visit our website at chicagoredcross.org to find out more about how you can prepare yourself and your family.

Written by Dana Morones

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