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Son with autism leads way out of burning house

August 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A 20-year-old man with autism was home alone with his grandmother Sunday night when a fire started. They had no idea the danger they were in until a neighbor ran in to help. That's when the young man turned into a hero himself. It happened on the 31500 block of Paseo Campeon in San Juan Capistrano.

John Kurrasch's parents believe their son, who has autism, knows how he helped others.

"It's a bit overwhelming but we're thankful that no one was hurt," said John's father, David Kurrasch.

Amateur video taken by neighbor Tony Weeda shows flames and smoke after 9 p.m. Weeda had just arrived home. He ran inside the burning house to find John and his grandmother asleep. Weeda says the grandmother pointed him upstairs to John's room.

"Upstairs is full of smoke and then when I opened up his door there was smoke in his room," said Weeda.

Weeda says they made it to the stairway, then the lights went out. That's when he turned to John for help.

"I just said, 'Johnny, touch the wall,'" said Weeda. "I didn't know if they had furniture in there. I said, 'Just take us straight out, man, let's just walk out of this place. And we've got to do it now.'"

The Orange County Fire Authority also credits Weeda for helping.

"His heroic actions, alerting the family, basically saved both of them," said OCFA Capt. Steve Concialdi.

The fire authority says the smoke alarms did not go off right away to alert the family because for some reason they were covered in plastic. Authorities urge people to test their smoke alarms.

Officials say this fire was accidental, possibly caused by an appliance in the garage. The damage was estimated to be about $300,000.

As the family tries to save what they can, they came across John's new guitar -- unscathed.

His family say it's another reminder of how lucky they are.

"He's a little angel, he really is," said David Kurrasch.

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