Good Samaritan saves elderly man from burning Antioch apartment

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An elderly Antioch man is alive today because of the heroic action of his neighbor, who rushed to rescue 79-year-old Lobiss Burton from his burning apartment on Saturday.

Before Saturday, Lobiss Parks, son of Burton, didn’t know Samantha Barnhouse lived next door. He does now. And he's thankful for it.

"I love my dad. I don't know what we’re going to do for you, but were going to do something," Parks said while hugging Barnhouse.

Barnhouse’s initial though was the smoke had already killed Burton. The apartment was fully engulfed in flames and billowing black smoke. But she went in. And with zero visibility, she met Burton in the back bedroom.

“I tried not to breath and I kept pulling him out and pulling him out,” said 120-pound Barnhouse, who ended up using an office chair to transport Burton. “Finally, I stood up, and we got caught on a living room table. I could feel the heat and see the kitchen while the flames are moving horizontally towards the door.”

“But they weren't there yet.”

Park believes his father would not have made it if not for fast-acting Barnhouse. And Contra Costa Fire Department shares that sentiment, noting if he had remained in the building much longer a difficult rescue through the upstairs bedroom window may have been the only option. By that time, it might have been too late. 

Barnhouse said flames were roaring out of the windows and front door just seconds after they got outside. They weren’t even downstairs yet.

It was food left on a burning stove that sparked the blaze, gutting the apartment on 2200 Peppertree Way. Fire officials on the scene said kitchen fires are common and tend move quickly. But what happened at this particular site left them surprised.

“She performed the rescue with zero visibility in high heat conditions,” said Billy Small, Contra Costa fire engine 81. “It’s hard enough for us to do. For someone to do it that's not trained, it's amazing "

After a hospital visit Samantha was discharged with a clean bill of health while her elderly neighbor recovers from a broken hip. In moments like this, you wonder you the ratio between thinking and acting.

How much is instinctual?

“If I end up in the same scenario would I do it again? I can't answer that question,” Barnhouse said.

But Parks felt he could answer it.

“It's not that you think about doing it, you just did it,” he said. “That's the kind of person you are, Samantha."