HAZELTON, Idaho (AP) – One overheated bearing caused a semitrailer wheel to break away from its vehicle and crash into a home, breaking through the outside wall and starting several small fires inside.

Charisse Stevenson said she was just about to carry a load of laundry upstairs in her home last week when the wheel, glowing with heat, broke away from the truck headed down Interstate 84 a few hundred feet away and crashed through the wall. It landed on the stairs, near where Stevenson was standing.

The wheel was so hot that it instantly ignited several small fires, leaving Stevenson and her 10-year-old son, Bo, trapped on opposite sides of the stair landing.

“Bo came running yelling, fire, fire’ and here we are dancing around this tire trying to figure out how to get out of the house,” Stevenson said.

Fueled by adrenaline, Stevenson said she stepped into the fire and picked up the burning wheel, which she estimated to weigh 250 pounds or more.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Stevenson said. “I went back and tried to lift it afterwards and there’s no moving that tire.”

With the tire out of the way, the petite Stevenson was able to lift her 135-pound son up and over the flames to the staircase.

Bo’s younger brother, 8-year-old Treg, was upstairs and saw the tire flying toward the house.

“Treg bolted out the back door as soon as he heard the crash,” Stevenson said. “He thought the roof was falling down.”

Standing in the snow with bare feet and no jackets, the family watched as the fire spread through the downstairs portion of their home.

Stevenson then realized that Treg’s dog, Charlie, was still in the house. Charlie had backed into a corner of a bedroom and it was 45 minutes before firefighters were able to rescue him. Two of Stevenson’s cats died during the blaze.

West End Fire District Chief Randy Sutton said it took 18 firefighters about three hours to put out the flames. He said the entire lower level of the home and much of the upstairs was destroyed.

The truck’s driver, Wesley Rankin of Winterport, Maine, stopped to help the family try to put out the blaze until firefighters arrived.

“He’s the nicest guy,” Stevenson said. “I called him to thank him for his help and he said it made him feel so much better. It wasn’t his fault.”

Stevenson’s husband, Terry, said the trucking company’s insurance carrier will pay for the complete rebuilding of the inside of the home, which he estimated would take three to four months.

Terry Stevenson was on his way home from work when the incident occurred. The family is staying with his parents in Hazelton.



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