Two south Los Angeles station sheriff's deputies are being hailed as heroes for helping save the lives of four children trapped in a house fire earlier this year.
Deputies Robert Maas and Gerardo Marroquin were just starting their overnight shift Jan. 16 when they saw smoke in the distance.
It was a large house fire, with flames shooting through the windows. When they arrived, they discovered a tall metal security gate had been locked from the inside, hindering their ability to get to the home.
Top news of the day
"Adrenaline kicked in and just instinct. I knew I had to get over that bar and that gate,” Marroquin said.
Within seconds they had alerted the fire department and gained access to the property.
"As we knocked on the windows and made the announcement ‘Sheriff 's department,’ we heard faint cries," Maas recalled.
Four young children, between the ages of two and eight, were trapped inside.
"I handed him my baton and he broke the window to the bedroom,” Marroquin said.
The flames were unbearable, even outside the house. The smoke was too thick to see inside, but they had cleared a path for firefighters.
“At that same time, LA County Fire was at the location and they were running up to us, which was a great feeling,” Maas said
"They donned gear and they crawled in the window and were able to locate the children,” Marroquin remembered.
"It was tough because a lot of the clothing was burned off, the skin you could tell was obviously burned and (the children) were motionless,” Maas said.
The children were badly injured, but they survived. The entire rescue, by fire and law enforcement, took only a matter of minutes.
But it's one they will not forget.
While they had to continue their shift, the two deputies continued to check in on the children throughout the night, getting updates on their conditions.
"It was difficult. We have been to a number of house fires, trash can fire, this I my first fire where there's people trapped inside and hearing there were kids’ voices was difficult," Maas said.
For previous coverage of this story: