A sheriff's deputy rescued five people from a raging apartment fire in Victorville before firefighters arrived, rushing into the inferno and grabbing a trapped young girl in a "bear hug" and carrying her to safety.
San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Arturo Ramirez was one of the first people to the fire, which began just after 2 a.m. on Saturday. Already, 10 apartment units and six cars were engulfed in flames.
Ramirez soon learned several people were still trapped inside.
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"I ran upstairs, couldn't see anything because of the smoke," he said. He caught sight of feet beneath the smoke in the corner of one unit. "I just took a deep breath and ran in there."
He felt around and was able to grab two women by the arms - each was holding a child.
"I told them 'I'm here to get you out,'" Ramirez said. "Luckily, we made it out safely."
Once outside, the rescued women told Ramirez there was another, 11-year-old girl still inside.
Ramirez said he was still catching his breath and trying to come up with a plan to re-enter the blazing building. He looked up again - and what he saw caused him to drop his plans and run back in.
"I saw these two tiny little hands pounding on the living room window," he said. "So I just took a deep breath, entered the apartment, and just bear hugged her, she bear hugged me back, and we just ran downstairs. I'm just thankful that everything's OK and she's alive."
Nevaeh Nemes, the rescued girl, recalled the rescue.
"Right when I said help, the police officer ran upstairs really fast and grabbed me," she said.
The blaze at 14243 Rodeo Drive was believed to have been caused by faulty electrical wiring, officials said. It caused an estimated $500,000 in damage and took about an hour for firefighters to put out.
But no one died, thanks to Ramirez.