SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KTVU) - Three youngsters were hurt when a fire broke out early Wednesday at a home in the Cherryland neighborhood near San Lorenzo in unincorporated Alameda County, authorities said.
According to Alameda County Fire, a 16-year-old girl was rescued from the fire after a neighbor tried desperately to save her, while a 17-year-old boy and 8-year-old boy were able to escape the blaze with minor injuries.
The teen rescued was identified as Paola Zepeda. She was badly burned and is suffering from life-threatening injuries. All three victims are related. They are out of school for the summer and were home alone at the time of the blaze. The two boys were rushed to a local hospital for medical treatment. Zepada was airlifted to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
"I saw flames coming out of the house. Saw windows explode. Glass crackling," said Mike Nguyen.
Nguyen lives a few doors down. He was on his way to work. He says he saw the 17-year-old boy outside the burning home, lifting his eight year-old nephew out of a window.
But his 16-year-old sister was still inside.
With the house on fire and before firefighters got here, Nguyen bravely climbed through the girl's bedroom window, trying desperately to find her and bring her out.
"It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done in my life," said Nguyen. "I got in about 5-10 feet The smoke was too overwhelming. I could still hear her. She didn't seem that far away. I feel bad I couldn't get to her but the smoke was overwhelming. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe."
Nguyen said he doesn't see what he did as heroic. "It was more instinct than anything else. To me the real heroes were the firefighters. They were able to save her.
Nguyen's boss heard what happened and gave him the rest of the day off.
"This is one of those times when firefighters are put in a situation when an opportunity, a small window occurs where we can make positive change, said Batt. Chief Tom Pappas.
Firefighters were called to the home on Gribben Avenue and Mero Street around 8:30 a.m. Authorities have not yet said what sparked the one-alarm blaze.
The identities of the other victims were pending.
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