Classmates organize drive for teen who escaped house fire

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ONA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two strangers are credited with rescuing a teen trapped in a bedroom after a fire at a home in Ona, West Virginia last week.

It began Thursday, as neighbor Matt Hayes said he was walking his dog and saw smoke. He thought it was someone burning leaves, but then heard a someone yelling for help and saw her hanging out of an upstairs window.

"She just said she can't get out, she can't get out," Hayes said.

Hayes grabbed a ladder and ran it over to the house, where another man climbed up and pulled a teenage girl to safety.

After they pulled her out, they could then see flames shooting out from the roof.

"I'm just glad he was in the right place at the right time," Hayes said of the other neighbor. "I was out of breath. I'm not a runner. I couldn't have gotten up and got her. I'm glad he was there at the same time."

That teen is 17-year-old is Hailey Pennington, a senior at Huntington High School. She said she's thankful to be alive, but she's lost everything.

Her friends are now enlisting their classmates and the community to help replace even the basic necessities that went up in flames.

The only thing she made it out of her house with were the clothes on her back.

"Nothing, not even a pair of shoes,” she said, her eyes welling with tears. “Nothing, it's all gone."

It’s heartbreak for Pennington, who is in the middle of her senior year.

She was trying to take a nap when she realized her house was on fire.

"I was literally trapped in a room yesterday, with a fire coming from one end,” she said. “If (the strangers) didn't hear me, I wouldn't be here anymore."

The home is extensively damaged. The upstairs is destroyed. Firefighters were only able to save a few things with protective tarps downstairs.

"I'm happy to be alive,” said Pennington. “I'm so happy to be alive."

She's thankful no one else was inside either.

She's got some scratches from where she broke her window to scream for help.

“I was so scared, I was so scared,” she said. “The 911 person was telling me to be calm and I said, ‘Can’t. I cannot be calm.’”

Just a week before Christmas, virtually all her possessions are now gone, from the irreplaceable like trophies or family pictures to the basics like socks and shampoo.

That's where two of her friends, fellow seniors Jocelyn Holbrook and Olivia Hutchison, are trying to jump in.

"I said, 'I'm so glad you got out,'” said Holbrook. “'I know that you lost all your stuff, but you're irreplaceable.'"

Now, they are asking their classmates at Huntington High to donate clothes, toiletries, even school supplies. Cash and gift cards are even better.

"We're just really hoping that everyone at our school will be generous and really think if they were in her shoes," said Hutchison.

For Pennington, who doesn't even have a pair of shoes now, that means a lot.

"Nobody has to do anything, they just want to do it. It makes me feel good and makes me happy," she said.

Pennington goes half-days at school so she can work, which is why she was home that afternoon. She lives with family friends in Ona and commutes to Huntington High.

"I'd appreciate any help I can get, anything,” said Pennington. “I don't even have a toothbrush, it's all gone. My school work is gone. Everything is gone."

The cause of the fire has not been determined, fire crews say.

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