Losing your sense of smell and taste is one of the earliest signs that you may have COVID-19. It’s a weird symptom, and while it’s annoying, it seems fairly innocuous at first.
Until you realize that you rely on your sense of smell much more than you think you do. Without it, you can’t tell if food has gone bad. You can’t smell a gas leak. You can’t smell smoke.
One family in Waco, Texas, nearly perished because of that last factor. Early Friday morning, five adults, three children and four dogs were at home when a fire broke out.
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
There was only one person who hadn’t lost her sense of smell. Bianca Rivera, 17, smelled burning plastic and immediately knew something was wrong.
“I started smelling burnt plastic. That’s when I got more alert and I ran outside of my room and I couldn’t even pass the hallway because it was filled with so much smoke,” she told KWTX-TV.
“And I knew I had to wake everyone up,” she said. “And I made sure everyone was safe and outside, away from the property.”
That included the dogs. She risked her own safety to save everyone, going back in to pull out the four dogs they owned.
“It didn’t matter to me if I was going to get hurt or I was going to get burned,” she said, according to KOLD-TV. “As long as I got them out safe and sound I was going to be fine.”
By the time the fire department arrived, the house was completely ablaze.
STRUCTURE FIRE – 2200 Block of Joey Dr. @WacoTXFire units arriving with a one-story house heavily involved in fire. Exposures threatened.
— Waco Fire Department (@WacoTXFire) January 15, 2021
“STRUCTURE FIRE – 2200 Block of Joey Dr.,” the Waco Fire Department tweeted shortly after the fire was discovered. “@WacoTXFire units arriving with a one-story house heavily involved in fire. Exposures threatened.”
The family had gotten out with what they had on them, but everything else burned.
“I don’t really count myself as a hero,” Rivera said. “I just did what anyone else would do for their own family.
“I just wanted to get everyone out safe and alive. That’s all I wanted was to keep everyone alive.”
The family is currently receiving help from the Red Cross, and extended family has helped them secure more basics while they figure out what the next steps are.
“Right now we are renting a motel room we are trying to find a residence at the moment,” Rivera said.
COVID-19 and a house fire is a lot to deal with at the same time, but thanks to Rivera’s keen senses and bravery, her family — two-legged and four-legged — is alive and can move forward.
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