Neighbors save man

They pull his head through a window as fire burned his packed home.

May 06, 2010|By Veronica Rocha

MONTROSE — A Glendale man remained in intensive care at a local hospital Wednesday after neighbors and firefighters struggled to rescue him from his fiery home, which officials said had pack-rat conditions.

Eric Guritz, whose family said he was dependent on others for care, suffered from serious smoke inhalation during Tuesday night’s fire and was taken to Verdugo Hills Hospital.

Neighbor Neil Wilson saved Guritz’s life by pulling his head out of a window to access fresh air as smoke billowed out of his house, said his aunt, Eileen Bandy. Another neighbor poured water on Guritz to keep the smoke from further damaging his lungs, she added.


“That was just a miracle,” Bandy said.

Wilson’s wife saw smoke billowing from the home on the 3500 block of Las Palmas Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

“I did what I could do,” Wilson said.

He ran to the home and tried to break down the door, but it was bolted. He then tried to pull Guritz’s head out off a small door window so he could breathe.

Thirty-four Glendale and Los Angeles County firefighters arrived about 7:13 p.m. to the home and noticed heavy smoke and fire coming from the single-story home, Glendale Fire Capt. Vincent Rifino said.

Firefighters were unable to enter the home quickly due to heavy clutter, he said.

Knowing that Guritz was trapped inside, firefighters smashed open a window, entered and cleared furniture from the doorway to get him out, Rifino said.

Pack-rat conditions inside the home, coupled with thick smoke and hot temperatures, made the blaze challenging for firefighters to extinguish, Rifino said.

“It was a stubborn fire,” he said.

Firefighters put out the fire in 46 minutes.

Damage to the home was estimated at $450,000.

The American Red Cross provided Guritz’s family with temporary shelter and disaster assistance, he said.

Damage to the inside of the home was not visible Wednesday because the windows were boarded up, but the tile roof was blackened.

Some of the family’s valuables, including antique furniture, large plastic containers, toys, papers and books, littered the lawn and the side of the home.

Witnesses said the condition of the home’s inside mirrored the destruction outside.

The cause and origin of the blaze remained under investigation, which could be difficult to determine due to the clutter, Rifino said.

The Fire Department has encountered pack-rat conditions at other Glendale homes, which he said makes for more dangerous conditions during an emergency.

Rifino encouraged residents to do some spring cleaning to better protect their homes.

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