Concow fire victim owes life to quick action of trio
By ALMENDRA CARPIZO-Staff Writer
POSTED: 08/14/2013 12:00:55 AM PDT
CONCOW -- Three men's quick reaction saved a 65-year-old man from the second-story of a burning home Monday afternoon.
The men were taking a break from collecting wood when they began smelling something burning just before noon, 24-year-old Anthony Lombardi of Oroville said. They dashed to the side of the hill in fear the fire was coming from a friend's house.
Once they saw the flames billowing from a neighboring home at 11509 Aureole Way they continued to run toward it, he said.
The men ran down the driveway and across a neighbor's property to reach the home, Lombardi said. Once there, they began yelling to see if anyone was inside.
A voice asking for help could be heard from upstairs and when they contacted the man he informed them that he could not walk.
"When he told me he was disabled we were freaking out," Lombardi said. "We knew we had to get him out."
The fire was spreading quickly and the front of the home was already engulfed in flames.
The men went around the back and were able to help the 65-year-old man exit the burning structure.
Virgil Ritter, 24, who lives about 200 yards from the home that burned, was with Lombardi.
"It was pretty intense," Ritter said.
When Ritter first encountered the flames he got scared, but once he heard the man's voice he started thinking about him and how they needed to get him out, he said.
Cal Fire-Butte County crews arrived shortly after the men exited the structure and were in the back porch, but a pair of propane tanks and a fast-moving fire were still a threat, Zacheri Brewer, 25, said. He and Lombardi helped the man move a short distance out of the way, but they could not carry him.
There were flames rushing through the window and it appeared the windows could blow out at any moment, Lombardi said. He decided to run toward the fire engine and tell firefighters they needed help.
Once the firefighters arrived, Ritter and a firefighter helped carry the man down a steep hill and away from the home, he said.
Brewer grabbed a dog that was on the back porch and they were able to get out before the propane tanks exploded, he said.
It was chaos, Brewer said.
The experience is just starting to sink in, Ritter said. It was frightening and the most terrifying experience he's lived through.
Although the three men saved the 65-year-old, they say they're not the heroes.
The men are thankful emergency personnel arrived quickly. Had they not, the situation could have been worse, they said.
"They're the heroes," Ritter said.
The home was a complete loss, but fire crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading to vegetation.
Six engines, three water tenders, three aircraft, three chief officers, a safety officer and one hand crew responded to the scene.