Good Samaritans rushed to help when West 13th Street home caught fire

3 people taken to burn center in Gainesville following fire

Two good Samaritans jumped into action to help rescue a family from a house fire Monday evening in the Hogan’s Creek area.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two good Samaritans jumped into action to help rescue a family from a house fire Monday evening in the Hogan’s Creek area.

Three people ended up in a hospital after the fire, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

News4JAX on Tuesday spoke with the good Samaritans, Sirrah Ruise and his cousin Carolyn Spatcher, who ran to try to help the three people when the home on West 13th Street caught fire.

Ruise and Spatcher said that when they got to the house, a man who was visibly burned was pulling his aunt out of the home but could only pull her as far as the front porch.

“There was an explosion. Stuff was falling on her, the glass. Oh, my God,” Spatcher said.

Ruise said: “I assisted him in pulling her out onto the lawn, but she couldn’t walk.”

Ruise said he and the woman’s injured nephew managed to eventually pull the woman, whose legs and the rest of her body were badly burned, into the street, where they all patted her down to put out the flames.

But while this was happening, Ruise said, the nephew’s girlfriend was trapped in a room on the second floor as flames had already reached that level.

“She was just screaming through the bars, ‘Help me, help me.’ But when my family and I went to go walk into the home along with the nephew, the house blew up. That was the third explosion. There was nothing we could do,” Ruise recounted. “He said step back, and the house blew up, and she screamed and screamed and screamed she didn’t want to die, please help her.”

JFRD then arrived on the scene and was able to rescue the trapped woman while also putting out the fire. That woman called 911.

News4JAX has learned that the woman who was trapped, along with her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s aunt, all had serious burns and were all taken to UF Health Jacksonville before they were transported to UF Health Shands Burn Center in Gainesville.

Meanwhile, the good Samaritans said they are psychologically struggling after what they witnessed.

“It’s very traumatizing for me,” Ruise said.

Spatcher said: “Oh, my God. I don’t wish that on nobody’s family.”

The good Samaritans said they’re upset that a group of people stood there and shot cellphone videos instead of helping them assist the man and his aunt who were already outside the house.

While fire officials are against someone who is not a fully trained and fully equipped firefighter running into a building to help someone trapped, they say it’s OK to render aid to someone who is outside as long as it can be done safely.

“If the person’s laying out here and their clothes are on fire, it doesn’t hurt to put a blanket on them. But, obviously, we don’t want anybody putting themselves in harm’s way,” said Fire Chief Keith Powers. “If they are in cardiac arrest, obviously we would want them to do CPR, that’s why we teach CPR to everybody.”

Firefighter union president Randy Wyse, who is a retired firefighter, says he can understand why bystanders may or may not help in this situation.

“It’s a difficult position for neighbors to be in, whether to react or not react,” Wyse said. “I guess it’s a personal decision as to whether they want to do that. And I understand when people do react if they feel put aback by people not responding.”

A GoFundMe account has been established to help the family.

‘Hang in there for me. I’m right there with you, OK?’

In audio of the 911 call, the the dispatcher tries to keep the woman calm.

“Keep the door closed,” the dispatcher says. “Hang in there for me. I’m right there with you, OK?”

The dispatcher tells her to use towels to block the smoke from coming in.

“Cover your nose with your shirt. Do anything you can, ma’am,” the dispatcher says.

“I can’t breathe,” the woman replies.

“They’re coming, ma’am, they’re coming,” the dispatcher responds.

Finally, fire crews get close to her location and the 911 operator reports hearing their voices in the background.

During a news conference in front of the home, Fire Chief Keith Powers said the 911 operator’s actions are what helped save the woman’s life.

“Our 911 dispatcher did a phenomenal job,” Powers said. “She heard our crews go by, called them on the radio, and said, ‘Hey, she’s right there. Wherever you all are, I just heard your radios.’ They backed up, went in that room and found her and were able to get her out.”

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