Heroes brave the inferno

Local man saves the life of wheelchair-bound woman, dog
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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A Loomis man is being called a hero after saving his neighbor and her dog from a fire that destroyed a home and caused two firefighters to be treated for heat exhaustion. “I didn’t even think. I was on a mission,” said Darrel Bristol. “I do things because I hope others would do them for me.” According to Bristol, who lives in the Sierra Gateway Mobile Home Park on South Walnut Street, at around 1:30 p.m., on Sunday he saw smoke coming from his nearby neighbor’s shed and called 911 before attempting to put it out with a garden hose. Bristol said he heard three explosions in rapid succession and saw the fire spread to the home of Catherine Herman, who uses a wheelchair. Herman’s husband, Cliff, was not home at the time. Bristol said he yelled before kicking in the front door of the home. The Hermans’ dog rushed out of the burning home and Bristol went in. Bristol said the front part of the home was engulfed in flames when he entered. “The flames were licking my shoulder,” he said. According to Bristol, he found the woman in the back bedroom watching a baseball game. He said he was able to put her in her wheelchair and take her out to the front porch where another neighbor helped carry her down the steps. Bristol and his wife, Susan, have lived at Sierra Gateway for six years. He has been on disability from his job at a concrete company after undergoing back surgery and was still recovering when the company issued him a layoff notice in June. Phillip Percival, in a development that borders the mobile home park, said he saw the smoke while at Starbucks and feared his own home was on fire. He ran home and realized it was the mobile home located directly behind his house. Meanwhile, neighbors bordering the mobile home park fire were fighting their own battles to free pets from backyards and keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes in the 100-plus degree heat. “The whole neighborhood was out there. They watered down the house and fence that caught fire,” Percival said. He credits neighbors Shawn Cash, Brian Sullivan and Dana Eagan and his son Shane with evacuating homes and animals, knocking down fences and hosing off homes. “They are heroes. They saved our houses,” Percival said. Even with the volunteer efforts, one additional home’s roof caught fire before it was put out by firefighters and Bristol’s mobile home was damaged. According to Captain Darrell Jones, of the Loomis Fire Protection District, the Loomis fire crew received the call at 1:33 p.m. while on the scene of a Rocklin grass fire. They arrived at the blazing Loomis home at 1:42 p.m. Fire units from Rocklin, Penryn, South Placer Fire, Newcastle, Auburn Fire and Cal Fire also responded. Jones said the Penryn crew would have been the first on the scene if not for a downed tree and power lines that closed Walnut Street, requiring the Penryn trucks to back up and detour. Jones said the temperature on the asphalt was 109 degrees at the scene of the fire. He said a Loomis firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and was transported to Sutter Roseville Hospital, treated and released. A Rocklin firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion. Jones said the home is a total loss and that the fire is still under investigation. The homeowner said he thinks rags he was using to stain his deck started the fire. Jones said that low humidity and high temperatures can cause rags containing flammable materials to self combust. He advised that those items be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, so that no oxygen can get to the rags. The Hermans have lived in Loomis for two years and prior to that lived in Rocklin for more than 30 years.