Homeowner escapes fire thanks to neighbor

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FLINT TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (1/2/2018) - A quick thinking neighbor helped an older woman escape a fast-moving house fire early Tuesday morning.

The fire had started in the rear of the house and the homeowner was asleep in the other end of the home.

Sandy Jeans lives next to the house that caught fire on Bernice Avenue in Flint Township. Her dog woke her up and that's when she ran to the rescue and banged on the neighbor's door relentlessly.

"She said she banged on the door for 10 to 15 minutes. Luckily my aunt heard her, got out, had enough time just to grab her purse. She was in her pajamas," said Ramon Gatica, the victim's nephew.

Lydia Gatica, 74, was asleep when the fire broke out in the Michigan room just before 7 a.m. Tuesday.

"They had some equipment back there to dry out a water problem they had from the roof leaking," said Ramon Gatica.

The fire spread into the dining room, but Lydia Gatica wasn't aware of the approaching danger. But her neighbor was.

"She looked out, could see the fire in the Michigan room that faced her house and she took action," said Mike Burkley, Flint Township assistant fire chief.

It's a good thing she did. It was a fast moving fire.

"It went very quickly. I saw it progressing from me getting there with just smoke to fire through the roof in a short period," said Burkley.

Single-digit temperatures made it hard to put out the flames.

"It's very difficult for fire fighting this time of year in cold weather," said Burkley.

Gatica had been alone in the house. Once she was outside she slipped and fell and hurt her knee and back. She left in an ambulance but was not seriously injured.

The family appreciates what Jeans did to save Gatica.

"Everybody gave her a hug this morning and told her how grateful we were," said Ramon Gatica.

Jeans was not available to talk about her bravery on Tuesday. Gatica's house likely is a total loss.

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