The two nurses had a dawning realization when the elevator opened earlier this month on the second floor of a six-story apartment building in Nebraska City.
They were on the wrong floor.
But there was something else.
Is that a smoke alarm?
And does the hallway look hazy?
Jules Koppes and Shawn Stukenholtz of Ambassador Health at Home looked at each other and said, “You go that way, and I’ll go this way.”
The quick thinking of the pair of home health nurses helped avert what could have been a serious problem on Dec. 14 at Riverview Terrace, a public housing facility with 55 units serving primarily senior citizens and the disabled.
Stukenholtz quickly found the source of the alarm — a locked apartment with smoke curling out from underneath the door.
She rang the doorbell. She knocked. She pounded.
With no one answering, Koppes went for help, while Stukenholtz continued to bang on the door.
In the meantime, the floor manager emerged a few doors down and assured Stukenholtz no one was inside — the tenant was at work. The manager rushed to get a key, and Stukenholz grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher.
With the door open, Stukenholtz jumped inside and began spraying. She quickly extinguished the fire that had started on the stove and was about to spread to a chair and the wall.
Jason Booth, a firefighter with Nebraska City Fire and Rescue, complimented the two.
“It could have gotten out of hand very quickly,” he said, even with the sprinkler system about to kick in.
A grateful Tracy Wieckhorst, executive director of Riverview Terrace, said the episode underscores the importance of smoke alarms and quick thinking.
“It could have gotten ugly quickly, but with everything in place, it all went well,” she said.
With the situation under control, Stukenholtz and Koppes departed to visit their client — on the fourth floor.
“We both took some deep breaths and looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got a patient to see,’ ” Koppes said. “So we went to see our patient.”
Koppes is from Lincoln, and Stukenholtz is from Nebraska City.
It’s funny, Stukenholtz said, how a mistaken punch of the elevator button could turn out to be a good thing.
“It could have been a lot worse if we had gone up to the fourth floor,” she said. “Sometimes, I feel like God puts you in a place for an odd reason. We were on that floor by chance.”