Friend helped family out of burning home

April 5, 2014

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Regina Slone and her two children may have no physical possessions remaining from a fire that destroyed their home in Blue Water Shores, but they learned something valuable – they can depend on a relatively new friend of the family.

The March 6 fire broke out after midnight.

Regina’s 15-year-old daughter Alyssia and 7-year-old son Joseph were asleep.

J’Dan Upham, who was at their home when the blaze erupted after having watched a movie with Regina, first tried to find Alyssia inside the house, which was filling with thick smoke.

He ended up pulling the girl out of her bedroom window, with little time to spare.

“The courage he had was amazing,” Regina said. “He’s a hero.”

Upham, whose nickname is J, said he suffered second-degree burns on his arms and back. He spent 12 days in the burn specialty unit at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Alyssia, a student at Crossland Ninth Grade Center, was treated and released from Parkland the day of the fire. Joseph, who attends Acton Elementary School, was released two days later.

Regina, who was not hospitalized, had been taking a shower when the fire began, but managed to pull Joseph out through his bedroom window.

Upham, meanwhile, didn’t want to take credit.

“The four of us worked together as a team,” Upham said. “We communicated. In my book, God’s my hero. God put me where I needed to be to do what I needed to do. I refuse to be called a hero.”

The mobile home was a total loss, and Regina didn’t have insurance. She said they have received assistance from the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. She said they were given a couch plus a washer and dryer – but they have no place to put them yet.

The three family members have been staying with friends Chris and Jennifer Thompson, said Regina, who is a juvenile supervision officer.

“People have came and helped,” said Regina, 37. “People at work have been so generous.”

A fire victim program set up by state Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) has been helpful financially.

The Granbury Marine Corps League Detachment 1297 (Comanche Peak) also helped financially.

The blaze is still under investigation, but did not appear suspicious, Fire Marshal Ray Wilson said on Wednesday.

HEAT, DARKNESS

Regina said Upham lifted her and carried her out of the house. She went to Joseph’s bedroom window and broke it using her bare hands, she said.

“He stood up to the window, and she pulled him out,” Upham explained.

Upham said he went back into the house, intending to rescue Alyssia and get her out the back door safely. That proved impossible.

“You literally could not see your hand in front of your face, and it was really hot in there,” Upham said. “The heat of that fire, the intensity of it, you don’t walk through that.

Regina had grabbed (Alyssia’s) hand and slipped. Upham saw (Alyssia) and pulled her out.

Upham said that Alyssia hit her jaw during the process and was temporarily knocked out.

Alyssia said, “This woman and this man (pointing to her mother and Upham) are heroes. (And) he (Joseph) is the most bravest 7-year-old boy. As soon as I got out of bed, I hit the floor and used my hand to cover my mouth.”

Alyssia said she would have died if J hadn’t been there to help.

After the rescue, the injured Upham rode his bicycle to the house on the other side of the block where his mother, Glenda, lives with his stepfather.

Upham said he went there so they would quickly call 911.

Regina said she met Upham in September. They indicated that their friendship and Upham’s relationship with the children grew. What happened during the fire strengthened those friendships into something that is “absolutely awesome,” Upham said.

“These babies may have lost everything they had, but they’ve got each other, and I’ve got some very good friends,” Upham said. “They’re not even friends to me – they’re family.

“We’re there for each other, and that’s what’s important. There ain’t nothing that can separate what we have.”

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