Rescuers of Toddler, Grandfather Meet Grateful Family

Family's rescuers visit the hospital day after blaze ripped through apartment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Neighbors he barely knew rescued Ivo Gerskovitch's 2-year-old daughter and 69-year-old father-in-law from a smoke-filled stairwell as a kitchen fire engulfed a West Los Angeles apartment. The grateful parents reunited with their loved ones' rescuers. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2013. (Published Saturday, Oct 19, 2013)

    Neighbors who helped rescue a 2-year-old girl and her grandfather, critically hurt after fire broke out in a high-rise apartment in West Los Angeles, reunited with a grateful family Saturday.

    "There are a lot of hard times going on right now for a lot of people in a lot of different ways and this kind of thing really restores your faith in humanity – having people like that," the girl's father, Ivo Gerskovitch, said.

    Burned High-Rise Didn't Have Sprinklers

    [LA] Burned High-Rise Didn't Have Sprinklers
    A kitchen fire at a West Los Angeles high-rise critically hurt a 2-year-old girl and her grandfather. Some residents say they did not hear a fire alarm and officials say the 25-story complex built in 1961 was not equipped with sprinklers. Reggie Kumar reports from West LA for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2013. (Published Saturday, Oct 19, 2013)

    The girl and her grandfather were found unconscious Friday in a stairwell on the 23rd floor of the 25-story Barrington Plaza at 11740 Wilshire Blvd., according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

    "She was laying in her grandfather's arm in a corner of the stairwell," said resident Sasha Poparic, who helped rescue the pair with neighbor Pamela Day.

    Day was stranded on the 23rd floor and frantically coordinating with her upstairs neighbor to develop a plan to find the family. Then Poparic rushed into action -- and into a smoke-filled stairwell.

    "I really thought, like, you know, 'I'm gonna die,'" Poparic said.

    He performed CPR on the toddler, cradled in her grandfather's arms, then carried the pair to the hallway where Day lives.

    "We carried them up to the roof hoping that a helicopter would come," Day said.

    But they ended up going back down 25 flights of stairs to get the 69-year-old grandfather and his young granddaughter into an ambulance.

    Day told NBC4 she received a tearful call Saturday from the girl’s father thanking the woman who helped save his little girl and asking her to visit his daughter at the hospital.

    The couple's 2-year-old daughter, April, was in an oxygen chamber Saturday evening.

    "Our little girl looks like she's pulling through," said Gerskovitch, whose wife is six months pregnant and was unharmed by the fire.

    Gerskovitch said his daughter's doctors seem optimistic about the prognosis but it's still too early to tell.

    His father-in-law was unable to speak a day after the blaze, but gave two thumbs up when told the tubes he is using to survive would come out soon.

    Gerskovitch said he knew his loved ones' rescuers only in passing before the fire, which brought several neighbors together in a way they hadn't before.

    A therapist living nearby helped an 18-year-old woman who was crying by herself on the sidewalk.

    "I gave her my shoes and a jacket," Tina Logan said.

    "I think i got emotional when I saw people waving their hands on the balcony after about an hour and they hadn't been rescued yet," she added.

    The fire broke out just before noon Friday in the kitchen of an 11th-floor unit at 11740 Wilshire Blvd., the 25-floor Barrington Plaza.

    The fire was isolated to one two-bedroom unit -- built in 1961, it was not equipped with a sprinkler system -- and extinguished in about an hour.

    It sent thick smoke into the building’s upper floors, displacing nearly 150 residents from 51 units and killing the Gerskovitches' pet dog. In all, 10 people were hurt.

    Some residents said they heard fire alarms after the blaze broke out, but others did not. Fire officials said the alarms were working properly.

    Firefighters responded to several reports of individuals stranded in stairwells. Residents in some floors above the burning unit who did not respond to alarms and leave the building might have been exposed to smoke, said Brian Humphrey, of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

    "In a fire like this, the most important thing is to know your exits," Humphrey said.

    Some residents on floors below the fire were ordered to shelter in place, said Armando Hogan, of the LA Fire Department. The strategy keeps stairwells clear so firefighters have a path to the fire.

    "We have to hike up stairs to get to that floor with equipment that weighs upwards of 100 pounds," Hogan said.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting in the investigation, and an electrical engineer is being flown in from Virginia to determine if the fire was intentionally set.

    NBC4's Reggie Kumar and Nyree Arabian contributed to this report.

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