Teen Describes Rescuing Neighbors from Burning St. Paul House

Updated: 07/22/2014 7:48 AM KSTP.com By: Jennie Olson

Photo: KSTP-TV/Jeff Ganahl
Photo: KSTP-TV/Jeff Ganahl

A duplex fire in St. Paul has been ruled an arson, and a person of interest is being questioned by investigators.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old is sharing his story with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS after he helped rescue two victims from the burning home.

The fire started around 12:30 a.m. Monday on the 400 block of Goodrich Avenue in St. Paul. 

"There were just huge flames coming from the back," said Ricardo Martinez, the teen who was playing music with a few friends right across the street when the fire broke out. 

He didn't miss a beat.

"If I'm going to do something, I have to act now," Martinez said about what he was thinking when he first saw the flames.

So he sprinted across the street, not even bothering to grab his shoes. He wrapped his tank top around his face and forged into the flames.

"I only made it to the steps before I turned around, because the smoke was just terrible," Martinez said. "It was just all heat and black smoke."

So he shifted his focus to the second floor, where two older men were trapped.

"I tried to climb the balcony, and I got about halfway up, and then (his friend) Luis got a ladder, and that helped me fully up. And then I saw that he was in the window, trying to call for his brother," Martinez said. "He tried to go deeper in, and then I'm like, 'No, come back!' And I help him out, and he's like, 'No,' still trying to get back in because his brother's inside."

Martinez managed to get the first victim onto the porch roof, and then tried to go back for the other.

"I'm like, 'Grab my hand! Can you hear me?' And then he was just -- I couldn't hear what he was saying, but he was yelling, and slowly, it started to get dimmer and dimmer, and I couldn't breathe anymore," Martinez said.

Firefighters arrived moments later and rescued the other man. Both victims were rushed to the hospital.

Martinez was just fine. His mother was not.

"My mom was like, 'Why would you go in there? That's a burning house! You should be smarter than that, but that's so good that you did it,'" Martinez said, with a laugh.

He said it was simply the right thing to do.

"There could be fire anywhere, the floorboards could break, and all this. But I just thought that there's a person inside, and I can do my best to try to save them," Martinez said.

Both men were taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and their conditions are unknown.

St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Jim Smith says the fire appears to have started in the back porch area of the house and spread to the garage. He says the house is destroyed.

The other resident, who lived downstairs, wasn’t home at the time of the fire.