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Cleaning crew smashes window to save woman from deadly fire at California condo complex

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Posted at 4:33 PM, Jan 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 16:33:01-05

CYPRESS, California (KABC) — A cleaning crew helped rescue a woman after a fierce fire erupted at a condo in Cypress on Thursday. Unfortunately, one person was found dead in the blaze.

The fire was reported shortly before 9:30 a.m. at the Cypress Monterey Condominiums in the 5700 block of Playa Way, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.

"The front door area was totally engulfed with fire, and there was no way to escape that way," said OCFA Capt. Thanh Nguyen.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, a woman who had been trapped in a bedroom had just escaped the inferno.

Fire officials credit good Samaritans, including a neighbor, with putting themselves in harm's way to rescue the woman who was screaming for help.

One person was found dead and another was hospitalized after a two-alarm fire erupted at a multi-family residence in Cypress, officials said.

That neighbor, Phil Johnson, described jumping in to help his downstairs neighbors after noticing their home was on fire. He identified those neighbors as Jerry, a man in his 70s, and his stepdaughter, Lori.

"I opened the door to see if maybe I could get him out of there, but a big black pillar of smoke came out," Johnson said. "I remembered that there was a fire extinguisher right down there, so I went down and got it, broke the glass, cut my finger, deployed the fire extinguisher, and it didn't even touch the fire."

Johnson said there was no way he could get to his neighbor Jerry. Meantime, he could hear Lori trapped in a bedroom screaming for help.

"About four cleaning ladies come from this way and they're like, 'Oh my God. We gotta do something.' So I was still trying to figure out a way to help Jerry, they came over here with their brooms and broke the window and got her out," Johnson said.

"In my opinion it was the cleaning crew ladies that saved her life," he added.

Lori was transported to a hospital. The extent of her injuries was not known. Sadly, the victim identified by neighbors as Jerry died.

Neighbors say this is a tragic lesson about the importance of keeping an eye on each other.

"I'm so thankful that our neighbors are paying attention, and now I'm going to be more watchful, too, especially if we have elderly people living around here," said Veronica Traurig, who lives at the Monterrey Cypress Condominiums.

As for the hero cleaning crew, witnesses said the ladies left the scene after helping Lori escape through the condo window.

Fire investigators have determined the fire was accidental. Damage to the structure is estimated at $350,000, and damage to the contents inside is estimated at $150,000. The blaze did not spread to any of the neighboring units at the complex.