Happiness is a new porch
Berthoud firefighters go above and beyond to help a local woman with home renovation
By John Gardner
Susan Chapman went to the hospital via ambulance about 11 a.m. on Aug. 23. When she returned home, three firemen were still there and her front porch was gone.
“They were going to put two screws in a rail, the next thing you know, they have the whole porch taken out,” Chapman said of returning to her home that afternoon.
For Chapman, one of the kindest and unexpected gifts she’s ever received came this week in the form of a 20-square-foot redwood porch, courtesy of three local firefighters.
“They really went above and beyond,” Chapman said Thursday morning.
Chapman was experiencing dizzy spells on Tuesday morning and dialed 911 for assistance. Both Thompson Valley EMS and Berthoud Fire Protection District personnel arrived on the scene. BFPD engineer Travis Cole, firefighter Max Peacock, and Lieutenant Dan Forbis just happened to be the ones that were on the call. Forbis recalled what poor condition Chapman’s front steps to her house were in when he entered, along with paramedics, to check on Chapman’s condition.
“I was nervous on the front porch,” Forbis said. The handrails were unstable and Duct Tape held portions of the steps together.
Chapman, 57, has lived in Berthoud for 35 years, 23 years in her house on Welch Avenue. She’s had knee replacement surgery, is on oxygen part of the time, and has difficulty getting around at times.
“I’m not exactly mobile, and they saw that,” Chapman said.
As paramedics were taking Chapman to the ambulance to transport her to a Loveland hospital, Forbis, concerned for Chapman’s safety, asked her if she’d mind if they fixed up the front-porch handrail.
“That’s when they asked if they could put a couple of screws in it for me,” she said. “I said, ‘OK, that would be great.’”
Chapman knew the porch was in bad condition and had received a quote to have it replaced, but couldn’t afford to have the work done until next spring.
“I thought that was an awfully long way away,” Forbis said.
The initial plan was just to fix up the handrail, according to Forbis, but after they started looking at it, the wood was rotted and in such poor condition that the only way to fix the handrail was to replace the entire porch.
“There was nothing to drill to,” Forbis said.
Now, the porch is pretty small–40 inches by 58 inches to be exact, Forbis remembers–and the fellas thought that they could probably knock it out in an afternoon. So, after a quick trip to an area hardware and lumber store, they returned with a bundle of wood, screws and a drill, and got to work. Each of the firefighters has some experience in construction, be it work on their own homes or helping friends with a project, so it seemed like a pretty quick job.
“It seemed like it was easier to replace than try to patch it together,” Forbis said.
They hoped to have it wrapped-up by the time Chapman returned, but were in the middle of it when she did. Chapman’s sister, Connie Chapman, drove down from Cheyenne to take her sister home. Upon their arrival at Susan’s house around 4 that afternoon, they were surprised to see the firemen still there.
“My sister and I pulled up in front of my house and they had the whole porch taken off and were building a whole new one for me,” Chapman said.
The firemen didn’t get an opportunity to speak with Chapman when they finished about 7 p.m. Chapman was asleep. She’d had a tough day and needed the rest. They finished up quietly, packed-up, and returned to the station.
“Really, it was just an opportunity. We can’t build everyone a deck,” Forbis said. “We had an opportunity and the need was clearly there. And when the opportunity presented itself, we took advantage of it.”
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Forbis added. “We just slapped a new porch on it.”
But for Chapman, their kindness is immeasurable.
“I was stunned. I’m still stunned,” Chapman said. “I think it’s the sweetest thing in the whole world that anyone could do. It still just blows me away.”
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