A 16-year-old Placentia boy crawled on his hands and knees through a flaming house Sunday morning to drag his friend's wheelchair-bound father to safety, fire and disaster officials said.
About 7:15 a.m., a fast-burning fire broke out at the home of Roland Winters, 43, in the 600 block of Twilight Street in Placentia, gutting 75% of the building and causing $96,250 in damage, said Art York, an Orange County Fire Department spokesman.
Winters, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is generally confined to a wheelchair and must wear leg braces to get around, said Harry Huggins, an American Red Cross spokesman. The braces--along with the family's Christmas presents and prescription eyeglasses belonging to Winters' wife, Carol--were destroyed in the blaze.
Just after 7 a.m., Carol Winters' screams awoke her son, Don, 17, and two 16-year-old friends who were spending the night--Brad Hall and John Moore, both of Placentia.
Escaped Through Window
When the three boys opened their bedroom door and saw flames engulfing the living area of the house, they escaped through the bedroom window, York said. After climbing to safety, they saw that Carol, 42, and her two daughters, Nancy, 15, and Jennifer, 6, were safe but that Roland had not escaped. So the boys tried to re-enter the burning home.
"Apparently, Don was unable to get through one entrance of the house because of the heavy smoke," Huggins said. "Brad Hall re-entered the house by crawling on his hands and knees, so the smoke billowed out over him. He found the father next to the washer and dryer unit, and he literally dragged him out of the house.
"When I asked Brad how he knew to do this, he said he had learned this in a health class in school--how to exit a house on fire," Huggins said. "He's a little bit shy about being recognized for the good deed that he did and seems to not want a lot of publicity, even though one of the radio stations (KNX) wants to make him citizen of the week. He's young."
Hall and Don and Roland Winters were treated for smoke inhalation at Placentia Linda Hospital and released. Moore was treated for smoke inhalation and a cut hand and also was released.
Hall and the Winters family could not be reached for comment.
Five fire-engine companies with 30 firefighters battled the blaze for about 20 minutes before bringing it under control, York said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Ray Cardona, a Red Cross volunteer who lives three blocks from the Winters home, was heading to church with his family when the fire began.
"I saw this tremendous amount of black smoke," Cardona said. "Being a disaster services volunteer for the past seven years with my family, we decided to go over there.
"Flames were coming out the roof. Roland Winters was out on the sidewalk, draped in a blanket. So I contacted the battalion chief and took over the disaster relief."
The Red Cross provided shelter for the family in a Fullerton motel, Cardona said. In addition, the organization is working to replace the burned braces, glasses and presents.
"The family is very shook," Cardona said. "Right now, their emotions are not good. To tell you the truth, the father doesn't know the extent of the damages, and he's taking it very hard."