Local News

Lifelong Friends Describe Jumping to Escape Fire

Posted October 5, 2007
Updated October 6, 2007

— Two women who survived an apartment fire in Carrboro by jumping from their second-floor balcony believe they lived for a reason.

Kristin Pietrowicz and Susan Thorne were lifelong friends and had known each other since they were 4 years old when they took an apartment together at the Highland Hills complex at 180 BPW Club Road.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, their building burned to the ground. Another woman died and 20 people were displaced by the blaze, whose cause investigators think they may never be able to determine.

"It was probably the scariest moment of my entire life," Pietrowicz said.

"I'm still having nightmares," Thorne added.

The two said they woke around 1:45 a.m. to find their entire apartment crowded with flame and smoke.

"It was so smoky, I couldn't talk. I couldn't see her (Pietrowicz), I couldn't see the cat, I couldn't see anything," Thorne said.

"I have a green sheet hanging, and the whole thing was glowing orange," Pietrowicz said.

The women quickly learned the severity of the danger they were in.

"I started complaining, 'My feet are on fire, my feet are on fire! They're so hot, they're burning!'" Thorne said.

Pietrowicz said she realized she and Thorne would have to act to save themselves.

"For me, I knew that we weren't going to make it out of there if we didn't jump," she said.

"She's like, 'Susan, we have to go,''' Thorne said. "She took her blanket and her cat and just kind of went over the railing."

Thorne followed – and just in time.

"I swear to God, she (Thorne) hadn't even hit the ground yet, and our porch was engulfed," Pietrowicz said.

The two women were transported to UNC Hospitals with broken bones and spinal injuries. They were listed in fair condition and recovering on Friday.

The women carried their pets when they jumped from the apartment, but neither they nor their friends have been able to find the cats since then.

Pietrowicz, a barista, noted the ironic timing of her injuries: She ran her first marathon the morning before the fire.

"I've had two surgeries on this foot where the doctors are picking the woods out of my innards," she said.

Thorne, a school teacher, said she has a new lesson to teach: "How important it is to know fire safety."

The two said their friendship helped them survive what could have been the most devastating event of their lives.

"If it wasn't for Kristin, I would probably be in bed sleeping. She saved my life," Thorne said.

"We made it through this together. That's why you jump: your friends, and you want to live another day to see each other," Pietrowicz said.


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  • Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Oct 6, 2007

    Kitti, cat pics are already attached to the story, just click on the arrow under the main pic.

  • headlong Oct 6, 2007

    What a GREAT story of survival and Friendship!!! Belongings can be replaced but True Friend is hard!!!

    I agree is there some sort of fund set up to help these girls???

  • kittiboo Oct 6, 2007

    Glad they made it out ok- I sure hope they find their kitties. That is my worst nightmare, that my pets would die in a house fire. Makes me sick to think of it. I would jump holding onto 3 cats and a dog if I had to.
    Do post pics and hopefully the kitties will be found safe.

  • peacebee Oct 6, 2007

    What a great story and I am so happy they lived through their ordeal and have each other to be grateful for.

  • MSN93 Oct 6, 2007

    So happy you made it out ok. God bless.
    WRAL: Post pictures of the pets so that people in the community can help look for them.

  • djofraleigh Oct 5, 2007

    they're...not their, I'm not typing very well tonight.

    I'm glad their ok, and I don't mean to be a perv, but there's just something about two hot girls holding hands in bed..."

    You have your mind on something else... is why, and on this forum I don't think we need to spell check or proof read, just write well enough to get the point across.

    as for a smoke filled room, it isn't like the movies, you might get a hot breath of bad air and have your body go weak. Fighting for air when there is none, not being able to see your hand in front of your face, thinking you might not make the five steps and open the door to the outside is what panic is all about.

  • rugrat462 Oct 5, 2007

    Im glad you two made it out ok...my family just suffered a house fire a month ago and lost a cat outside also, everyone told us the cat would start coming back, and he did, people would call us and say that he was spotted in our yard, we sat out a animal trap, and just this past week, we caught it...so they do come back to his home

  • patriotsrevenge Oct 5, 2007

    they're...not their, I'm not typing very well tonight.

  • patriotsrevenge Oct 5, 2007

    I'm glad their ok, and I don't mean to be a perv, but there's just something about two hot girls holding hands in bed...

  • Made In USA Oct 5, 2007

    By the way, let us know if you are in need of anything you lost in the fire. I'm sure some of us would be happy to lend a hand.