Passers-by Rescue Elderly Woman from Nebraska Fire

March 31, 2009
Passers-by said they rescued a 94-year-old woman from the apartment complex.

OMAHA, Neb. --

It took firefighters about 20 minutes to put out a two-alarm apartment fire near 79th and Blondo streets Monday night.

No word on what caused the fire or how many people were evacuated.

Passers-by said they rescued a 94-year-old woman from the apartment complex.

"I just picked up my dog and my coat and he's with me and we just ran out of the house," victim Cheryel Heygestpetch said.

The woman and the dog made it out safely and she said they watched as the apartment went up in flames and two men rescue people from the fire.

Daniel Schallenberger said he and his father noticed the fire from their home and decided to see if they could help anyone.

"Some lady yells out, 'There's an older lady down in that bottom floor,' and about that time she peaks her head out the window," Daniel's father Dan Schallenberger said.

"By that time it was already spread down and it was real hot, so we just kind of went in and she had a bad hip and she was slowly going up the stairs," Daniel Schallenberger said.

The pair said that everyone kept streaming out of the building as they tried to rescue the woman.

"Adrenaline kicks in and I just kind of picked her up with one arm and carried her out here on the lawn and just got out. You don't think about it you know," Daniel Schallenberger said.

The woman said there was so much smoke it was impossible to see. She is fine and was not injured in the fire thanks to her neighbors.

Crews on the scene reported heavy smoke coming from the building and extensive damage to two apartments.

Firefighters were assessing the rest of the building but several other apartments had smoke and water damage.

Ninety-four-year-old Mildred Gardner's son said, "I can't tell you how grateful I am. These two guys, I can't thank them enough, you know. We've been trying to get her to move in with us, so it looks like we'll get our wish and there's a good ending to this story."

Firefighters said that about two to three dozen people live in the damaged building.

To make matters worse, the fire department had to shut off the gas line to the complex, so even residents in undamaged units have to find a place to stay or get help from the Red Cross.

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