Firefighters Miss Exit, Save Home

Two car-pooling firefighters who missed a turnoff on their way to work early Thursday saved Thanksgiving for one local couple when they extinguished a fire that had erupted in their home, authorities said.

Dennis Heflin and Michael Elefante were en route to Firehouse No. 73 in Reseda from the Leona Valley when they missed their usual exit onto the westbound Simi Valley Freeway.

"These guys have car-pooled together for six years, so they must have been lost in conversation," said Los Angeles City Fire Capt. John Mitchell. "Lucky for this couple."

About 6:20 a.m., the firefighters spotted smoke coming from a residence in the 18200 block of Nordhoff Street, authorities said. The couple who owned the home were awakened by a smoke alarm and had just fled the house to report the fire.

The firefighters used a wooden picnic table to break a window and extinguished the blaze with a garden hose.

The fire, apparently started when several combustible chemicals ignited after being stored near a gas water heater, caused an estimated $10,000 in damage.

The couple was not injured. The wife was expected to deliver a baby on Thursday. "If that would have happened, they would have been ready for that emergency, too," Mitchell said.

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