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Texas teen saved Covid-stricken family members from raging early-morning fire that only she could smell

Bianca Rivera, 19, quickly evacuated her family, who didn't realize the house was on fire after losing their sense of smell due to Covid-19.
Delmi Rivera, right, looks at the remains of their house.
The Rivera family escaped from an early-morning fire, but lost everything in the raging blaze.Bianca Rivera

A Texas teenager pulled her family to safety after a raging blaze tore through their home in Waco, Texas, last week.

Bianca Rivera, 19, quickly evacuated her family, who didn't realize the house was on fire after losing their sense of smell due to Covid-19. Rivera, who didn't have the virus, said she was awake early in the morning on Jan. 15 when she smelled burning plastic.

"I ran out of my room, and I was hit with a bunch of smoke in our hallway, and as soon as I turned around, the whole front of the house was in flames," Rivera told NBC News. "That's when I knew I had to get everyone out."

Some 86 percent of patients with mild forms of Covid-19 lose their sense of taste and/or smell, compared with 4 to 7 percent of those with moderate to severe cases, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

The fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. in their one-story house, Rivera said. The teenager said she woke up her family and helped them escape through the back door, including her sister Edelmira Rivera, 22, and Edelmira's boyfriend, Steven Lopez, 22, and their 15-month-old son Sebastian. Her family's friends, Adrian Ramirez, 45, Francisca Torres, 41, and their children Brissa, 11, and Sergio, 15, were also at the house at the time. She said she then went back into the house to rescue her four dogs.

Rivera said that moments after everyone escaped, the home went up in flames and they lost everything, including equipment from their lawn care business. Rivera, who suffered minor burns, said she is grateful that no one was severely injured in the fire.

The Rivera house that burned from an early morning fire, in Texas.
An early-morning fire engulfed the Rivera family's home.Bianca Rivera

Waco Fire Department Chief Gregory Summers said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

“We're very proud of Bianca's actions of getting everyone out of the home safely. We're reaching out to the family to recognize her for her lifesaving efforts,” Summers said.

Rivera's parents, Carlos Rivera, 41, and Delmi Rivera, 43, who were at work when the fire broke out, called their daughter a "hero."

"I can't believe she was in a dangerous situation and was trying to save everybody," Delmi Rivera said.

As of now, the Riveras have recovered from Covid-19 and are staying at a friend's house while they look for a new home. Despite the near-death experience, the family said they are determined to rebuild their lives.

Delmi Rivera added, "God is giving us strength right now."