Man pulls roommate from burning home in Grand Forks
By Stephen J. Lee / Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS – One roommate pulled the other from their burning house early Sunday near the University of North Dakota campus and got his heart beating again, according to family members of Matt Heisler, who they say is “fighting for his life” in a Minneapolis hospital.
A hospital spokeswoman said Heisler remained in critical condition late Monday.
The fire started from food left cooking on the stove, Fire Department officials said Monday.
Heisler, 21, had been home for some time in the house at 2029 1st Ave. N., just east of UND’s campus, when his roommate Ryan Nelson, 21, came home about 2:40 a.m. and found the house on fire, said his family in a journal entry on his page on the Caringbridge website.
“Ryan could see the smoke in the windows and immediately ran to the back of the house where Matt’s room is and broke the window by throwing a brick. Ryan climbed inside, but when he couldn’t find Matt on his bed he didn’t give up.”
“Ryan climbed back out the window and went back to the front door forcing his way through heavy smoke on his hands and knees and searched for Matt until he found him,” wrote his parents and brother, Jared and Cheryl Heisler and Casey Heisler. “Ryan carried Matt out of the house and when he realized there was no heart beat, he gave Matt CPR and mouth-to-mouth until he got his heart to start beating again.”
Nelson took Heisler, or was taken with him, to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.
“When the two boys got to the hospital … Matt went into cardiac arrest again,” Heisler’s family wrote.
Heisler was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where “he has been in the hyperbaric chamber to get the (carbon dioxide) out of his lungs,” his family wrote. “And ever since that he’s been in the medical ICU fighting for his life. We appreciate the love and support from all of you more than you know. All we ask is that you don’t stop praying because we all know Matt won’t stop fighting.”
Nelson was treated at Altru for smoke inhalation and released.
The Heislers told hospital officials to ask reporters to respect their privacy Monday.
The cause of the fire was “unattended cooking,” Fire Marshal Brian Geatz of the Grand Forks Fire Department said Monday in a news release.
“The investigation revealed that food on a stove top was over-cooked and eventually ignited. The fire grew in intensity and eventually spread to nearby combustibles. The fire then spread throughout the kitchen and to the adjacent living room.”
Fire damaged the kitchen and smoke damaged the rest of the house, to the tune of about $80,000, according to the Fire Department.
According to his Facebook page, Matt Heisler is an enthusiastic bird hunter. He and his family live in Lakeville, Minn., just south of the Twin Cities.
The Heislers were featured on KARE-TV in Minneapolis a year ago because of the volunteering Jared Heisler has done since his daughter, Alysha, died at age 4 of a heart defect.
According to KARE, Jared Heisler, Matt’s father, works with the staff of the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital to help families coping with difficult medical circumstances and leads grief counseling for parents who have lost children and has given hundreds of talks for United Way.
Jared Heisler told KARE, “When something gets thrown at you, either you go in a shell or you make a difference.”
It was sitting with his little daughter in ICU that Jared Heisler thought of a way to help others in the same place.
Jared, his wife, Cheryl, and their children Matt and Casey, told KARE they want “Aly’s House” to be a refuge for parents with children receiving critical care at the Children’s Hospital.
“When you lose somebody, you realize the important things in life,” Jared Heisler told KARE.