The Victim in this fire is the wife of a retired lieutenant from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Dept.
The following story appeared in the Visalia Times Delta this week.
Austin Carrasco said he was simply doing the right thing Sunday when he rescued his 70-year-old neighbor from a burning home.
"If you have the ability to make the situation better, you have to do it," the 19-year-old said. "No ifs, ands or buts about it."
And that kind of attitude has earned him the respect of Tulare's first responders.
"Without thinking about it, he did what had to be done," Tulare City Fire Division Chief Ken Dodson said. "That's one of the reasons I love this community. We have so many people who help their neighbors."
A Tulare Western grad, Carrasco, who works at a Smart & Final store, lives a block away from Mary Doucette's home in the Garden School neighborhood. An alley sits between their homes.
After midnight on Sunday, just about the time he was going to sleep, Carrasco said he heard a loud noise.
When he went outside to check it out, Carrasco said he saw flames and smoke at his neighbor's home.
Carrasco carried out his 70-year-old neighbor from the burning house. Above: Carrasco, left, talks to a man Tuesday about the fire.
The flames, Carrasco said, could be seen over a 40-feet-tall tree that stands in his home's back yard.
"The flames illuminated the whole street," he said.
Carrasco said he first thought a car had crashed into the home because of its blaring alarm. When he learned the woman who lived there wasn't accounted for, he tried to open the door.
When no one answered his knocks, he took three hard charges at the door, Carrasco said. The third charge broke down the door and Carrasco fell into the smoke-filled living room.
Flashlight in hand, he went into the house and found Doucette on the living room floor. She had collapsed while attempting to get out, Dodson said.
Austin Carrasco, center, and his father, Don, left, talk with a man Tuesday about the Sunday fire at a home in the 600 block of Gem Street. Carrasco carried out his 70-year-old neighbor from the burning house.
Carrasco grabbed the woman under her arms and pulled her to safety. Two more people, including Carrasco's father, started CPR.
At that point, Tulare's first responders were on the scene and took over aid to Doucette, who was first taken to Tulare Regional Medical Center and then transferred to Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center. She was in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.
"When you calm down, you realize what he did," said Carrasco's father, Don. "It's just amazing."
Firefighters worked for about 30 minutes to control the fire, which caused heavy damage to the home, carport and vehicle, Dodson said.
In total, Dodson estimates the fire damage at about $100,000. The firefighters' efforts prevented the flames from spreading to other homes, Dodson said.
The residential fire appears to be accidental, Dodson said. Investigators are still working to determine cause of fire. A report is expected at the end of the week.
On Tuesday morning, Carrasco walked over to Doucette's home, where a handful of people walked through the burnt remains. Carrasco received several hugs and expressions of gratitude.
Dodson called Carrasco's action heroic. The young Tulare man wouldn't have it. "Just doing the right thing," he said.
JUST DOING THE RIGHT THING. INDEED MR. CARRASCO, YOU DID THE RIGHT THING -TALON