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Exclusive: Woman rescued by authorities

November 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Residents of the Oakridge Mobile Home Park had just minutes to escape the flames of the Sayre Fire. Fast work by firefighters rescued one woman who was trapped in her home. In an Eyewitness News exclusive, the woman's dramatic story is told for the first time. There is a woman Wednesday night who is thanking her lucky stars and a group of rescuers. She lived on space 283 at Oakridge Mobile Home Park. Fire officials say that if there had been a casualty in this fire, it would have been right here.

"I said no because I didn't think I was in any danger," said Sayre Fire survivor Barbara Goetzinger, 81 years old and unable to get out of bed.

Wednesday, she realizes she would have perished in her mobile home had it not been for a group of rescuers that assembled and pulled her out in her nightgown.

"I would have gone up with the house, yeah," said Goetzinger. "That was the only thing that could have happened, because I couldn't get out on my own."

She had no clue the fire would move so quickly. Neither did a group of fire and police commanders.

High-level brass had come to Oakridge Mobile Home Park to formulate an evacuation plan. LAPD Deputy Michel Moore, LAPD Capt. Phil Fontanetta, L.A. Fire Chief Michael Bowman, LAFD Capt. Fry and paramedics Hopkins and Watson.

"We took off our commanders' hats and put on our firefighter and police officers' helmets and went inside the house, smoke was starting to come, glass was breaking -- we went inside," said L.A. Fire Chief Michael Bowman.

They entered Goetzinger's unit with only seconds to spare.

"That's when her window shattered right next to her bed from the radiating heat of the fire," said Captain Colin Smith. "And then actual flames started to come into the bedroom window.

"As we rolled up her bedding, her mattress cover, and we were able to make handles for us, and between all of us, we were able to go and somewhat drag her and carry her out," said Chief Bowman.

"It was quite warm because the fire was coming down, and it was very close," said Goetzinger. She thanks her rescuers. "Because they were wonderful."

Firefighters continue on the job in Sylmar, assisting with the recovery effort. Overall, they say, they were very happy with what they were able to accomplish here. Five-hundred homes destroyed, but 1,700 people successfully evacuated.


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