A teen in Texas is being called a hero after she saved her family from a fire that consumed their home. Seventeen-year-old Bianca Rivera was the only member of her household who didn’t have COVID-19 — and the only one who could smell the smoke in time. Thanks to her quick thinking, her family is safe, though extensive fire damage has left their future uncertain.
The blaze erupted at the family’s Waco home around 2 am on Friday, January 15. KWTX news reports that Rivera was asleep when the the smell of smoke woke her up. Two adults who were already awake didn’t notice the odor due to loss of smell caused by COVID-19.
“I started smelling burnt plastic,” Rivera told CNN. “That’s when I got more alert and I ran outside of my room. I couldn’t even pass the hallways because it was filled with so much smoke.”
Rivera immediately began evacuating the other 3 family members present in the house, all of whom suffered from COVID-19.
“I woke everyone up and the first ones to get out that I took were the kids and the baby,” she told KWTX.
3 with COVID-19 owe lives to girl, 17, who smelled smoke from early-morning fire – This family is lucky to be alive. @WacoTXFire would like to remind everyone to make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. #SmokeAlarms https://t.co/CGpnow1Le4— Waco Fire Department (@WacoTXFire) January 16, 2021
From there, Rivera reportedly went back into the flames to rescue the family’s four dogs.
“Honestly it was just me protecting my family and getting them to (safety),” the teen told CNN. “It didn’t matter to me if I was going to get hurt or I was going to get burned as long as I got them out safe and sound, I was going to be fine.”
The fire went on to completely destroy the house, which was home to 10 residents in total, and everything within it, according to KWTX.
A Family Recovers
Upon hearing of Rivera’s heroic actions, the community at University High School, where she recently graduated and her little brother still attends, stepped in to help.
“I just asked her what they were in need of,” said Mary Olivarez, the school’s parent community involvement specialist. Olivarez called Rivera when she heard of the family’s devastating losses.
“They said, ‘underwear, shirts, socks and jackets,'” Olivarez continued. “They literally lost everything. When I say they lost everything, they lost everything.”
The school is reportedly working on replacing laptops and iPads that were lost, while a homeless relief organization donated blankets to the family.
University High School alumnus Roman Novian started an online fundraiser that had raised over $2,000 by Monday, January 18.
Meanwhile, Rivera said that her family is recovering steadily from COVID-19, with most having regained their sense of smell. She also expressed gratitude for the community’s outpouring of support.
“We are very grateful and we appreciate everything that they’re trying to do for us and God will bless them for many years to come for everything they’re trying to do for us,” she said.