MODESTO — Neighbors spotted smoke filling a garage in south Modesto and took quick action, possibly saving the life of the couple trapped inside Saturday afternoon.
Modesto Regional Fire Authority Battalion Chief Cecil Ridge said smoke was billowing from the back of the house in the 900 block of Bristlecone Way when crews arrived shortly after 2 p.m., but men had pulled the home's residents to safety.
They were taken to an area hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. Their son said both were "all right for now," but declined to give further information.
Ridge said the man had collapsed in the garage and lost consciousness. The woman apparently was asleep in a bedroom; neighbors pounding on the door roused her.
Neighbors Humberto Hernandez, Jose Cruz and Lalo Tejeda said they saw smoke in a garage window and ran to the house. Roberto Guillen, who lives down the street, said he smelled smoke and biked over. Javier Moreno, washing his car across the street, also came to help.
Hernandez said he heard a man moaning in the garage and tried to push the window in, but the glass broke, cutting his forearms.
Guillen said he jumped in the window, still smoking a cigarette, but was overcome by smoke and had to leave.
Moreno, speaking in Spanish, said he went in next, cutting his fingers, and grabbed the man's arm to pull him out. Together, the men were able to pull the husband out.
Meanwhile, those not at the garage window pounded on the door, yelling "Fire!" in English and Spanish. But the wife, who only speaks Cambodian, took a long time to come out, they said.
She, too, suffered smoke inhalation, but was conscious when put in the ambulance, Ridge said.
The back of the three- bedroom home was badly burned, with smoke damage throughout the house, Ridge said. The cause had not been determined Saturday evening. An early estimate put the damage at roughly $70,000.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.