Firefighters say men saved women's lives

A pair of maintenance workers rescued two women from an apartment fire in Costa Mesa, firefighters said Monday.

Arturo Hernandez, who works at the South Pointe apartment complex at 655 W. Baker St., saw the fire burning before noon Sunday directly across from the shed where parts are stored. He was having lunch and quickly ran to get a coworker, Geraldo Rodriguez, for help.

They ran toward the building, where they alerted residents and looked for the unit on fire.

Hernandez said he heard women shouting, "'Help me! Help me!'" and knew they were directly behind the door of their apartment.

Rather than try to kick down the door with his foot and risk injuring the two women, he used his shoulder.

One of the women was barely able to walk out of the building, he said.

Firefighters credited Hernandez and Rodriguez with saving the women's lives.

"It is our opinion, because of the amount of smoke and fire, they more than likely saved the two girls' lives," Battalion Chief Fred Seguin said.

Firefighters arrived at the complex within five minutes of the 11:58 a.m. 911 call and contained the blaze within 35 minutes, authorities said.

A total of 36 fire personnel arrived on scene. The Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley fire departments assisted the CMFD.

No injuries were reported. A preliminary estimate pegged damages to the apartment at $150,000 to $200,000.

An improperly extinguished cigarette caused the blaze, Seguin said.

The two women were displaced from their apartment.

Another tenant in the building provided a video of the fire in its early stages to the fire department, which used it for its investigation, according to Seguin.

—Lauren Williams

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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