Laquita Imes has some new heroes.
Imes was awakened early Thursday by the sound of her 20-year-old daughter’s screams, the smell of smoke and the sight of yellow flames licking at the walls of her house. Minutes later, Hall County firefighters pulled her unconscious daughter from their burning home on East Ridge Road.
"That was a miracle," Imes said later in the day, inside a Gainesville motel room paid for by the American Red Cross. "They really came right on time."
Imes’ oldest daughter, Laquisha Jackson, remained in the intensive care unit at Lanier Park campus at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Thursday after inhaling dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide in the fire, which destroyed the family’s small three-bedroom house.Imes, her two teenage daughters and her oldest daughter were asleep at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday when the sounds and smells of the fire, started by an electrical fault in a clothes dryer, woke Jackson, who was sleeping on a living room sofa. She ran screaming to her mother’s room to warn her.
"As she came in the room screaming and hollering all I saw was thick black smoke coming toward my room," Imes said.
The youngest daughters, 13-year-old Sequesha and 14-year-old Shytasha, made it to safety by escaping through a window in their bedroom. But the window in their mother’s bedroom was stuck as the smoke enveloped Imes, 38, and her daughter Laquisha.
"You could see it coming," she said of the flames. "It wouldn’t let you run toward the front door."
"Both of us were gasping for air, so I took my right fist and busted the glass to get us some oxygen for us to breathe," Imes said.
Imes screamed out, "help, somebody help us, the house is on fire," then swung her bare fist into the window again, smashing out another pane. The jagged shards of glass cut deep into her fingers.
Neighbor Tasha Bailey heard the screams for help and dialed 911. Laquisha fell to the floor overcome by smoke, just as her mother was able to wrest open a window with her bloodied hand.
After she was unable to lift the deadweight of her daughter, Imes leapt from the window, dressed only in a T-shirt and underwear. Bailey handed her a cell phone and she stammered to a dispatcher that her daughter was still inside. The smoke was too thick to go back in for her.
"I told her that my daughter wasn’t responding and I thought maybe the fire was trying to spread to the room, and I just kept trying to call her name," Imes said.
Within three minutes of receiving the call, firefighters from Hall County Station No. 7 rolled up with sirens blaring. They ran to Imes and asked, "Where is she?"
She pointed out the bedroom window. A firefighter ran to the window with a thermal imaging camera that showed him where Jackson lay through a curtain of smoke that had created zero visibility within the house.
"He spotted my daughter and he just dived in there," Imes said.
The firefighter quickly handed the unconscious woman off to three other firefighters, who laid her down on the ground and began administering first aid.
"They told me that it was going to be OK," Imes said. "I was just panicking and they really were trying to help as far as letting me know my child would be OK. I thank the fire department."
Imes and her family lost all their belongings in the fire, and are searching for a new place to live. But she says she will always be grateful to firefighters she believe saved her daughter’s life.
"I just couldn’t stop thanking them," she said. "I believe they’re Laquisha’s best friend now — it’s amazing. They’re my No. 1 heroes."