Two Men Break Into Burning House, Pull Woman to Safety : Fire: Marie Wallace of Anaheim Hills suffers minor smoke inhalation. No one else is hurt. Damage is estimated at $135,000.


Two Anaheim Hills men jumped over a fence and kicked through the back door of a burning house Friday morning to help guide a dazed woman to safety, authorities and witnesses said.

Shouting through choking smoke, residents Karl Kreutziger and Wayne Casey crawled through the living room of the one-story home on Andover Drive and found Marie Wallace, 54, on her hands and knees near the bedroom door. The men propped Wallace up and guided her out the rear of the house before firefighters arrived to battle the blaze, which broke out at 5:20 a.m.

Wallace suffered minor smoke inhalation and was treated and released from a Placentia hospital, Fire Department authorities said. No one else was injured in the fire, which authorities said caused about $135,000 damage.


“Fortunately, those guys got her out of there. It could have been a tragedy,” Anaheim Battalion Chief Roger Smith said.

Kreutziger, 28, a father of two who works for a construction company in Laguna Niguel, said he instinctively rushed into the home.

“There was this rush of adrenaline,” he said. “I’d do it again. I just think another 10 minutes of that smoke and she would have been pretty bad.”

Casey, 42, an Anaheim Police Department investigator, said: “I really didn’t have a lot of time to think. You just have to take the action and do what’s right.”

Firefighters worked about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

It destroyed the front of the house, the attached garage and a Jaguar parked inside, Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Magliocco said. Fire investigators said they thought the fire started in the garage but that they were not sure what caused it.

The Anaheim Hills neighborhood awoke Friday morning to the wail of an alarm and the sound of fire as it consumed the home’s wooden beams, creating a loud popping sound, said Kreutziger and Casey, who live in the neighborhood.


About 20 people had crowded around the burning house when Kreutziger and Casey, who live nearby and did not know each other, arrived. They said they asked the neighbors whether anyone was inside but that no one was sure. The men sprinted around to the back of the house and began kicking in a pair of French doors, they said.

A door broke open and smoke poured out. They dove to the floor and began crawling, occasionally bumping into furniture as they shouted, “Is anyone here? Is anyone here?” Kreutziger and Casey said.

“ ‘I’m here! What’s the matter?’ ” a woman replied, the men said. They found Wallace, clad in her nightgown, crawling near the door of her bedroom.

Once outside, the men stayed with Wallace until firefighters arrived and paramedics took her to Placentia Linda Community Hospital.

Several hours after the fire, Wallace and her husband, Jack, 59, who had left shortly before the blaze for a golf game, began removing belongings from the burned house.

Wallace expressed gratitude to the men who helped her out of the house.

“I wish I knew who they were. I’d like to thank them. They saved my life.”

Firefighters praised the two men’s actions even as they said that they don’t recommend that people rush into burning buildings.


Said Smith: “They have to remember that it’s heroic to do that, but they can’t sacrifice themselves. You don’t want to discourage people from doing a good deed, but they have to exercise caution. We don’t want to go in there and find more people than necessary.”