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Modesto firefighters lauded for rescue

Modesto firefighters Jesse Miguel, center, and Jason Wyatt meet Deloris Dobbins, a woman they saved from an apartment complex fire in mid-February. The two firefighters were honored Tuesday evening at the Modesto City Council meeting.
Modesto firefighters Jesse Miguel, center, and Jason Wyatt meet Deloris Dobbins, a woman they saved from an apartment complex fire in mid-February. The two firefighters were honored Tuesday evening at the Modesto City Council meeting. jlee@modbee.com

Modesto firefighters Jesse Miguel and Jason Wyatt were honored at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting for rescuing a mother and her adult daughter trapped inside their burning apartment.

They got a hug from one of the women they saved in the early morning Valentine’s Day fire, which gutted an eight-unit, two-story Campus Way apartment complex near the Modesto Junior College East Campus.

“I just love these guys,” said Delores Dobbins in an interview after an emotional Mayor Garrad Marsh had presented Miguel and Wyatt with certificates of commendation.

Dobbins’ sentiment was shared by the audience. The firefighters received two standing ovations, the second one prompted by a request from Councilman Dave Lopez to honor the firefighters a second time.

Dobbins, 67, and her daughter, Tammy Dobbins, had taken refuge in the bathroom of Delores Dobbins’ second-story studio apartment as the flames spread. Tammy Dobbins was spending the night with her mom.

They closed the bathroom door to buy time, but feared the worst. Fire officials said the two women had only minutes before the fire reached them.

“I thought we were going to die,” said Dobbins, whose daughter was not able to attend the council meeting. Some tenants jumped from the second floor before firefighters arrived, with two of them suffering leg injuries.

Officials say the fire started on the first floor and they consider it suspicious.

Miguel and Wyatt placed a ladder against the back of the apartment building by Dobbins’ bathroom window. Wyatt steadied the ladder as Miguel climbed it and then helped Tammy Dobbins down, passing her off to Wyatt.

Miguel climbed the ladder a second time and reached through the window to pull Delores Dobbins out of the bathroom and then carried her down the ladder.

Fire Chief Sean Slamon recognized not only Wyatt and Miguel but the other firefighters, police officers and emergency dispatchers who took part in the incident. For instance, one dispatcher kept the panic-stricken women calm until help arrived.

“This rescue was a team effort,” Slamon said in an interview. “It’s a great example of what all of our first responders do on a daily basis.”

The apartment building is boarded up and fenced off.

Owners Sherman and Connie Petersen said they are waiting to hear from their insurance company on whether the building can be repaired. They said the building has eight apartments (Modesto officials have said it has 20) and that about 16 people were displaced by the fire.

Their daughter Kim Petersen thanked firefighters and others for their efforts at Tuesday’s meeting.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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