Off-duty firefighter en route to Rams game stops to rescue East LA mother from burning home

"Honestly, that's just the thing that I'm most grateful for. That she's alive," said the woman's daughter.
EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Pasadena Fire Department captain was excited to watch the Rams take on the 49ers on Sunday with his father and son, but he didn't know he'd be rescuing a woman from her flame-engulfed home on his way to the game.

"I took a day off from work," said William Basulto. "I was supposed to be on duty here, took a vacation day to take my family."

As they left for the game, Basulto's father saw smoke in their East Los Angeles neighborhood.

"I said, 'I don't hear any sirens. I see a bunch of smoke,'" he recalled. "'Dad, I'm going to go check this out."

Basulto found a two-story duplex on fire. His instincts and his 20 years of experience kicked in. In his lucky gear, the Rams fan put on his captain hat and put the neighbors to work.

"Started having people break windows open, and get garden hoses and start putting the fire out and at that time, they tell me there's a lady that needs rescue from the second floor," said Basulto. "I could see her. She was up to a screen, heavy smoke coming out."

That woman was Samantha Gonzalez's mom, who was home alone at the time with her three dogs.

"The only entry way in our home was all in flames," Gonzalez said.

Neighbors brought a ladder and Basulto rescued Gonzalez's mom through a window.

"Honestly, that's just the thing that I'm most grateful for. That she's alive, because of this amazing man right here," said Gonzalez about Basulto.

One dog, Muñeco, was the only pet to survive. On Monday, Gonzalez's mother was still recovering at a local hospital. She was still having trouble breathing.

Gonzalez was heartbroken to see nothing was left of their home. Everything they owned was destroyed.

"It's just gone. I can't even put into words," Gonzalez said in tears.

Basulto said he was humbled by the experience and what he saw in his community Sunday.

"We're always there to help each other. We always want to help each other, no matter what, even if you couldn't do the evolutions that I did, you can do something," he said. "You can get people away. You can do something."

After going home to clean up, Basulto, his father and his son made it to the game Sunday and watched the Rams win a spot in the Super Bowl.

"It's amazing," Gonzalez said. "I'm so glad that the community has such amazing people to offer their services, and that's what I love about East Los Angeles, that we have such an amazing community here."

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.