A trio of good Samaritans came to the rescue of three people overcome by a “fast-moving” fire that destroyed two Golden Valley townhouses Wednesday, authorities said.
The blaze erupted shortly after 8:30 a.m. at the homes in the 7600 block of Harold Avenue, according to Fire Chief John Crelly.
Three men were rescued by a passerby and two city maintenance employees who were working in nearby Brookview Park when the fire broke out.
The three who were rescued were taken to a hospital, said the chief, who added that two have since been released and the third was admitted and expected to survive. One of the rescued occupants was inside in a wheelchair, according to emergency dispatch audio.
“This was a very fast-moving fire,” Crelly said. “If these people hadn’t been close by, there may have been fatalities.”
Along with the two townhouses being destroyed, a third was partly damaged, he said.
Authorities gave no initial indication of the circumstances leading up to the fire; however, dispatch audio suggested that the blaze was ignited by a candle.
Al Lundstrom said that he and co-worker Bob Thelen dashed over from the park in their vehicles and joined with passerby Jack Graven in getting the three men out of an entry that was filling with flames.
“They looked like they had all collapsed,” Lundstrom said of the men. “They were clearly in shock or suffering from smoke inhalation. One person looked like he was disabled.”
Graven said it took all three of them to get the man who was unable to walk to safety.
“I had the lower half of the gentleman, and they had the arms,” said Graven, a work-at-home Target employee who detoured from his daily Starbucks jaunt once he saw the black smoke over trees in the distance. “We got him out as quickly as possible and got him warm.”
Once the three residents were safely away from the fire, “I closed the door because the flames were coming out,” Lundstrom said.
From there, he said, “I started knocking on windows and doors to the unit next door” to alert others who might be inside.
The 55-year-old Lundstrom said he and 58-year-old Thelen got the rest of the day off, but not because they were being rewarded for their heroics.
“We both went and saw a chiropractor,” Lundstrom said. “We had tightness in our backs. It’s not easy picking up a body.”
Graven, 25, needing no such medical attention, said, “I’m doing just fine.”