Independence family reflects on fire that put child's life in danger

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - An Independence family reflected on a fire that left a 3-year-old's life in danger Monday when she was trapped inside the home.

Christina Johnson woke up to the smell of smoke at 7 a.m. She was able to get two of her children in her arms almost immediately. But a third child – 3-year-old Savannah – was in another room.

"By the time I got them over to a neighbor's house and came back, it had been two minutes, and the doorway was just billowing with smoke," Johnson said. "There was no way I could have gone back in."

Fortunately, Independence firefighter Brent Stenslokken was one of the first to arrive on scene.

"We used a thermal imaging camera to go down the hall," Stenslokken said. "We knew the general vicinity of where (Savannah's) bedroom was. We got there, and there was no one in the bed. (Savannah) was on the floor."

Stenslokken picked Savannah up and headed for the door.

"I just covered her face and basically ran her out, kind of like a football carry. I just held her and covered her face and put her head into mine," he said.

The other firefighters were quickly relieved as he ran her out of the house.

"When I got her out, she was actually screaming as I passed through the doorway," he said. "A lot of the firefighters were happy to hear that, so it's a big deal.

"I'll never forget her face – to see her in the back of the ambulance after we were done – it was very cool."

He credits his Independence Fire crew for helping save Savannah's life, but for Johnson, the wait was torture.

"I'm sure it was only a few minutes, but you know, there's nothing you can do – you're so helpless," she said.

All three of Johnson's kids have special needs. Her son Logan has had two heart surgeries in his short life – racking up more than $2 million in medical bills.

So far, they said God has gotten them through the hard times.

"He's been the only steadfast in our life to pull us through these last few years," Johnson said.

The River Church in Raytown has set up several ways people can help the Johnsons recover from the fire. People interested in helping can call the church at 816-356-7400.

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