"I don't really count myself as a hero," Bianca Rivera said after the dramatic rescue

By Joelle Goldstein
January 19, 2021 05:42 PM
The family's house after the fire
| Credit: courtesy Roman Novian

A Texas woman is being praised as a hero after she rescued her family from their burning home because she was the only one who could smell the smoke.

Bianca Rivera's family members were sick with COVID-19 when the fire broke out at their Waco home early Friday morning, CBS affiliate KWTX reported.

Because Bianca was the only person who wasn't infected with the virus, and subsequently hadn't lost her sense of smell — a common side effect of COVID-19 — the 20-year-old was able to smell the smoke and quickly evacuate her family and their four dogs, according to the outlet.

"It was just me protecting my family and getting them to [safety]," she told the outlet. "It didn't matter to me if I was going to get hurt or I was going to get burned. As long as I got them out safe and sound, I was going to be fine."

The house after the fire
| Credit: courtesy Roman Novian

The dramatic ordeal first unfolded around 2 a.m., according to Bianca.

"I started smelling burnt plastic," Bianca recalled to KWTX. "And that's when I got more alert and ran outside of my room and I couldn't even pass the hallway because it was filled with so much smoke."

Knowing that her mom, dad and sister Edelmara were likely asleep, and that time was of the essence, the 20-year-old quickly jumped into action, according to KWTX.

"I knew I had to wake everyone up," Bianca explained to the outlet. "I opened the back door and I got everyone out one by one."

A tweet from the Waco Fire Department confirmed that firefighters arrived at the family's one-story home on the 2200 Block of Joey Drive around 3 a.m.

However, by the time they had arrived, Waco firefighters said the home was "heavily involved in fire."

Several family members also lived in the house, KWTX reported. Besides the Riveras, who escaped with only the clothes that they were wearing, Bianca managed to rescue three children and one adult. Two other adults were reportedly at work when the fire broke out, according to the outlet.

In the wake of the fire, which destroyed nearly everything in the home, the Red Cross has been assisting the family of 10.

Bianca told KWTX that her grandparents have been gathering essential items for them, such as clothing and shoes, while they work to find another home.

"Right now, we are renting a motel room we are trying to find a residence at the moment," she explained to the outlet.

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A GoFundMe page was also set up on the family's behalf, and the Waco community has banded together to provide them with more lost items, including iPads and laptops for school, KWTX reported.

"We are very grateful and we appreciate everything they're trying to do for us and God will bless them for many years to come for everything they're trying to do for us," Bianca told the outlet of the support they've received.

Despite losing everything in the fire, the family is grateful to be alive — and they're crediting Bianca for that, KWTX reported.

"I don't really count myself as a hero," Bianca told the outlet. "I would just do whatever anyone else would do for their own family."

"I just wanted to get everyone else safe and alive," she added. "That's all I wanted... was to keep everyone alive."

Those interested in supporting the family can so do here.