Through the Fire: Sole Survivor

Each year fires burn homes, take lives and disfigure faces.  Home fires today burn faster than those of the 1950s.  Synthetic construction materials, fabrics and furniture burn quickly giving you much less time to escape.   In the 1950s, escape time was about 17 minutes.  (Today)

Today, it only takes two minutes for a fire to fill a home with black smoke or engulf it in flames. (FEMA)

Escape time is that short.

February 18, 2013, Fort Pierce, Florida:  

The sun was out.  A mother had just dropped her 8-year-old son off at her grandparents’ home to be babysat while she went to work. A cigarette fell onto a leather couch.  The house filled with smoke quickly and flames spread.  The grandmother escaped, only to realize that her great grandson, Demetrius Gollett, was still inside.  She ran back in, too late to find him, the air was dense with smoke like thick fog.  Demetrius lay trapped in a hallway moaning.   Carmen, the family dog, had run to hide in a closet. 

Police arrived. 

Chiquita Andrews, Demetrius’s mother arrived.

The St. Lucie County Fire Department arrived.

Demetrius's uncle, Antonio Andrews, told the fire fighters that a child was still in the house. His lingering moaning while trying to breathe could be heard from outside.  Two seasoned firefighters dove through a window into a terrifying fire; walking through flames, they searched for Demetrius.

Finding him on the floor of the smoke-consumed hallway, the two firefighters lifted the boy between themselves, shielding him somewhat from the flames.  They carried Demetrius out head first.

Carmen the dog and Demetrius’s grandparents did not survive.  His brave great grandmother had 95% of her body burned.

Demetrius was flown to intensive care at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, Ohio where he received life-saving treatment.  His burns left scarring on his face, arms, scalp, and shoulders.  The child has been through 17 surgeries in three years and has many more to come.

His mother, Chiquita, grew up in Fort Pierce, graduating from Port St. Lucie High School.  She and Demetrius attend the Second Chance Church of God in Fort Pierce.  Demetrius has indeed been given a second chance in life.  In 2013, the year Demetrius was caught in the flames, 321 children died in house fires in the United States. (FEMA) Demetrius Gollett narrowly missed becoming number 322.

Chiquita states that this event changed her life—it changed her son’s life.  She has felt the pain that no parent wishes to feel—the pain of their hurting child--wishing it hadn’t happened.  Wishing she could take away the burns, the scars.

For the first year, Demetrius had to wear a specially-crafted face mask—to protect his skin.  He wore it to school, to church, wherever he went.  The mask is off now, and his smile is evident, but he still needs laser-minimizing surgeries for his deep scars, an eyebrow transplant, and hair stem cells for his scalp. 

Demetrius loves basketball, but can’t participate in gym class at White City Elementary, where he is in the 5th grade, because the class meets outdoors.  Demetrius is restricted from going outside because the sun will damage his skin.

Chiquita is a working mother.  She does coding and billing at a local medical billing company.  Whenever she must take her son to Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Cincinnati or to Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, she has loss of wages.  She has expenses. She has travel arrangements. Each visit to Miami is a four-day hospital admission because of the deep anesthesia used during the laser surgery.  Chiquita is the only breadwinner in her home.  Demetrius medically needs regular expensive special soaps and skin care products; Chiquita applies them twice a day for her son.  She also checks over his schoolwork, because he fell behind during his hospitalizations. 

Chiquita looks exhausted.  I asked her, “If you had the funds, what would you like to do with your son for fun?”   She answered, “We were planning to go to Disney World before the fire; I would take him to Orlando for a few days and go to the theme park in the evening, when the sun’s gone down.”

Chiquita Andrews is truly a hometown hero, a mother who has endured much, and given everything for the sake of her son.

If you would like to help bring Demetrius out of the memory of the fire by assisting Chiquita with his medical care, you may send a check directly to Demetrius Gollett in care of his Event Coordinator, Darci Hess at: 162 Broken Oak Trail, Jensen Beach, FL 34957. You can also donate promptly and securely by going to: and search for "Demetrius Benefit."  Each donation whether large or small is very valuable and appreciated by the family.

The need is $50,000.

“An Evening With Demetrius and Friends” has been arranged to help raise necessary medical funds.  It is a dinner with entertainment at the Community Center on Airoso Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, January 22, 2017 at 6:30PM. Dove- award recording artist, Heather Williams will perform. Also performing, the talented Anthony Ryan and The Truth Worship Band.  Local heroes, Chiquita and Demetrius, will be present as well.  If you would like to attend, please contact Darci Hess, Event Coordinator at 772.209.1790 or email her at:

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© 2016 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon