WALTHAM (CBS) – Intense flames forced a couple to flee their burning apartment using a ladder hanging out their window. They just happened to have that ladder by chance.

“It’s like starting from scratch,” Mike Cohen said. “It’s like setting the reset button on your life.”

Mike Cohen and his girlfriend Carolyn Breton are living in a hotel room, with just the clothes on their backs. On a borrowed computer, they click through images of all that they lost Monday in a Waltham fire.

“Losing my two cats, which were like my kids,” Mike said. “It’s almost too much to process. I lost everything.”

Everything but their lives, thanks to an unusual Christmas gift.

waltham2 Unusual Christmas Gift Helps Waltham Couple Escape Fire

A couple escaped from a fire in Waltham using a ladder (WBZ-TV)

“I open it, and it’s like fire escape ladder,” Mike said. “I’m like ‘Woo. Great.’ Kind of laughing.”

“Never in a million years did I think we’d use it,” Carolyn Breton said.

But that ladder from Mike’s mom, collecting dust under the bed, was their only way out.

“I couldn’t see anything,” Mike said. “The blackest of black smoke. Heat was coming up the stairs. Then I was in full panic mode.”

mike Unusual Christmas Gift Helps Waltham Couple Escape Fire

Mike Cohen and Carolyn Breton (WBZ-TV)

“I’m screaming like I’m going to die,” Carolyn said. “We’re not going to make it.”

Quickly and carefully, they climbed until they jumped to the ground. Fire crews fought the flames for hours.

Now the couple is encouraging everyone to make a priceless purchase.

“It saved our lives. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that,” Carolyn said. “Everything is replaceable. He’s not, I’m not. That’s all that matters to me.”

The couple also suggests opening the ladder as soon as you bring it into your home.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Mike with the rebuilding process.


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