One year ago, a fire up in a far-away cabin near a lake caught fire, killing five out of the six people staying there. One of the victims was Kurtis Hansen, a 26-year-old former security guard at The Gazette, whose rather nasty smoking habit had him often conversing with editorial staff late at night in the smoking room. (Last night it became clear that, for the most part, smokers had a closer relationship with him than non-smokers)
Today, the paper carries a full-page feature on the fire and its aftermath, which as written by Katherine Wilton is so dramatic as to be almost surreal. It focuses on Karl Hansen, who barely survived the fire that took the lives of the five people he brought with him to the cottage.
It also says what Kurtis was doing for the last few minutes of his life:
Kurtis Hansen raced around the one-storey cottage looking for an escape route. They quickly decided the best option was to go through a window in a bedroom.
In a desperate bid to save his family, Kurtis grabbed a small end table and hammered it against the window until it broke. But inhaling the thick black smoke was too much for him. He fell to his knees, then collapsed.
With the flames surrounding the cottage and his son lying on the ground, Hansen instinctively dove head first through the window. He rolled down the hill to extinguish the flames that were burning him.
“Kurtis is the hero in all this,” Karl Hansen recalled recently. “I couldn’t have got out the window without Kurtis breaking it. My doctors said if I breathed in that crap for another few seconds, I would have passed out.”
I don’t know if it’s the personal connection, the inherently emotional nature of the event itself, or Wilton’s writing, but a few editors (including myself) had to take a break after reading the story.