Out of the fire, into the jail

Man rescued by neighbors, arrested on warrant


ROTONDA -- A man rescued by his neighbors from a burning house Wednesday night was arrested by Charlotte County deputies after they determined he was wanted on a Sarasota County warrant.

Emergency personnel were called to 39 Annapolis Lane about 7:25 p.m. and when they arrived, they found two men in front of the home fighting the growing blaze with a garden hose.

Miguel Mendoza and former Texas Rangers outfielder Malvin Matos were watching television when a neighbor knocked on the door and announced the home next door was on fire.

"We went outside when we saw this thick black smoke pouring out of the open garage," Mendoza said.

Matos and Mendoza banged on the front door, but got no response.

"We thought someone might be home, but no one answered," Mendoza said.

The pair then got a garden hose, but found the water to the burning home was turned off, so they extended the hose to Mendoza's home.

"They came to shut off the water earlier in the day," Mendoza said.

Using the hose, Matos and Mendoza got close to the open garage door and tried to douse the growing inferno.

Mendoza said there was a lawn mower and other things he was afraid might explode.

"You just never know," he said.

Emergency personnel arrived a short time later and took over the fighting of the fire, said Charlotte County Fire & EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins.

A sheriff's deputy knocked on the front door when he arrived and then kicked the door in, finding Steven Parker, 27, sleeping in a bedroom.

The deputy pulled the man off the bed by his ankles, waking him.

Hawkins said Matos and Mendoza likely saved the man's life.

"Had they not used their hose, it may have turned out differently," Hawkins said.

Damage to the garage was extensive and there was heavy smoke and water damage in the house.

Englewood Area Fire Control District firefighters also credited the pair with being heroes.

"We just did what we knew we had to," Mendoza said. "I couldn't live with myself if we stood back and just watched."

Parker was treated by medics for minor smoke inhalation. A routine check of his name revealed the Sarasota County warrants for issuing worthless checks.

Mendoza took in Parker's cat as he was taken to the Charlotte County Jail. Parker was awaiting transfer to the Sarasota County Jail Thursday.

"I felt bad for him," Mendoza said. "He had no idea the house was on fire, then he gets arrested."

The Englewood fire district and State Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the blaze.

You can e-mail Bob Reddy at breddy@sun-herald.com


By BOB REDDY

Assistant Englewood Editor