Two Los Angeles police officers burst into a flaming motel room Wednesday and pulled a burned man to safety just as the intensifying heat shattered a window in the room.
"This is a great way to start the new year," said Officer David Porras, 30, a nine-year veteran of the force, whose face was singed slightly during the rescue and who suffered mild smoke inhalation. He and his partner, John Tarankow, 28, were treated by paramedics at the scene.
The rescued man, Fred Robles, 43, of Burbank, suffered burns to his feet and legs and was also treated at the scene. He refused to let city ambulance workers take him to a hospital for further treatment.
Two other guests at the motel who were alerted to the fire by the officers received minor burns.
Porras and Tarankow were on their way back to the North Hollywood station at about 7:30 a.m. when Porras saw smoke coming from the Pepper Tree Motel in the 5900 block of Lankershim Boulevard. The officers called the Fire Department and pulled into the parking lot.
Most of the smoke was coming from Room 31 on ground level. "The door was open slightly and I could see that the mattress was totally engulfed in flames and the ceiling was starting to burn," said Porras. "A man was lying on his back on the floor near the bed. He was already burnt and he seemed dazed."
The officers threw a blanket over him and dragged him outside.
They ran down the corridor knocking on doors and yelling for people to get out.
The Los Angeles Fire Department arrived at about 7:35 a.m. and because the fire was mostly confined to one room, put it out in five minutes.
Pat Marek, a Fire Department spokesman, estimated damage to the room and its contents at about $8,000. A van parked next to the room suffered about $1,000 damage, mostly from blistered paint caused by flames coming out of the window. Marek said the fire probably was caused by Robles smoking in bed.
The police officers returned to the scene Wednesday afternoon to answer questions from news people. "I didn't mind coming back in," said Porras, who drove from his home in Palmdale to meet the press. "It's nice to have a good story to talk about."
Robles, who seemed dazed during the entire incident, according to the officers, refused all but cursory treatment. But in the end, Tarankow said, he had another cigarette in his mouth and seemed unfazed.
"He turned to me and said, 'Thank you very much for saving my life, and do you happen to have a match?' "