Off-Duty Firefighter Braves Heavy Smoke to Save Woman

Battalion Chief Chris Rowe says it was a case of right place, right time, right job

Long Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Rowe is the definitive reluctant hero. He doesn't want all the attention he's getting. 

“Not a lot to see," said Battalion Chief Chris Rowe of the Long Beach Fire Department. "Smoke was heavy, I was down on the floor, found her by feel.”

As a result, a 70-year-old woman was lucky to be alive Wednesday night. She was rescued from her burning home by Rowe, with the help of Gary Albin, a retired Marine.

Rowe works at Long Beach Fire Station 22. Wednesday night at about 5:30pm, right after he finished his shift, Rowe was home working in his yard. That's when Albin, his neighbor, noticed that another neighbor's house was on fire.

 “There was an elderly woman throwing water on a big fire with this tiny plastic bowl,” said Albin, a former Marine helicopter pilot.

Albin grabbed a garden hose and tried to beat back the flames as the woman disappeared into the smoke. Albin and Rowe could hear the woman's cries, so Rowe ran inside the home wearing flip flops, and none of his protective firefighting gear.

Rowe found the woman slumped in a chair. He dragged her to safety. The home was badly damaged, but she was saved. About the same time, his counterparts from Station 22 were putting out the blaze.

"It doesn't matter if we're on or off duty," said Chief Rowe. "If we see a problem, those in the fire service jump in to try to solve problems and make things better.”

Rowe's 13 year old son, who captured some of the aftermath on home video, doesn't see it that way.  Then again, that didn't change because of what happened Wednesday.

“Well, I've always thought of him as a hero," said Patrick Rowe. "He takes care of me. I think he’s pretty awesome.”

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