By Virginia Dean
Now that Thanksgiving is over, Ludlow resident Samantha DeCarvalho is breathing a sigh of relief – not because she wanted her favorite holiday to end but because it nearly didn’t happen in the first place.
“I love Thanksgiving,” DeCarvalho said in a recent interview. “Dinnertime is so important, such a special time in my family. Coming back from a busy day, we want to get together and sit down to be with each other.”
By now, friends, family and community members are aware that DeCarvalho faced an unexpected catastrophe last week as she prepared Thanksgiving dinner in her gas stove oven. A small amount of vegetable cooking oil had dripped onto the inside burner and set the appliance on fire.
DeCarvalho quickly shut the oven door but flames continued to pour out underneath. So she grabbed her three young boys, headed outdoors and called 911.
Within minutes, firefighters arrived and put out the fire. Ludlow firefighter Captain Eric Lever followed proper protocol by informing DeCarvalho that the oven could not be used until it was inspected.
Without family and friends in the immediate area, DeCarvalho quickly realized that her Thanksgiving might not materialize. She was distraught.
“I was cooking a 15-pound turkey with mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, a sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, a green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and cookies,” said DeCarvalho. “And I thought, how are we going to do Thanksgiving?”
Once they determined that the oven fire was out and the family was safe, the firefighters left for the station but, before they left, agreed to immediately return to the DeCarvalho’s to take their Thanksgiving meal to cook it at the station.
“As we left to go back to the station, I turned around to the guys and girls in the back and said, “I feel sorry. We kind of need to do something for these people,” Lever said.
While at the firehouse, in addition to preparing their meal, the firefighters gave DeCarvalho’s boys cookies, t-shirts, and teddy bears.
“I was at a loss for words,” said DeCarvalho. “This really showed the true meaning of Thanksgiving. I’m from a big city in Massachusetts and this would never have happened there. It’s something we’ll never forget. This is definitely a Thanksgiving we’ll always remember.”
By the time the DeCarvalhos returned to their condominium, their oven had been repaired by the maintenance crew, whom DeCarvalho had immediately notified at the time of the incident.
“They made sure that the oven was safe and usable,” said DeCarvalho. “Nothing was damaged – inside or out. It was a miracle. I couldn’t believe it. I know my grandmother was looking over me. She was my best friend.”
In the meantime, Lever and Fire Chief Pete Kolenda also reflected on the unanticipated holiday incident.
“We certainly felt good about what we did,” said Kolenda. “But I think we would have done the same thing no matter when it occurred. That’s what we’re here for.”
Lever agreed, noting that other fire departments would also have reacted in the same manner.
Both firefighters gave a special thanks to the Ludlow Fire Department.“We have a lot of kindhearted people in the department,” said Lever.
Kolenda concurred. “We have a tremendous crew,” he said. “They’re conscientious, outgoing and giving.”
As for DeCarvalho, she related that she will return the favor to the firefighters.
We’re going to buy some groceries and take them to the firehouse to cook and serve them,” she said. “We really want to say thank you.”