Deputy saves Ranchos man from burning home

A Douglas deputy braved fire and smoke to rescue a disoriented fire victim on Sunday.

Deputy Kevin Schaller was the first person to arrive at the scene of a 10:10 a.m. house fire at 1347 Riverview Drive.

According to East Fork Fire Investigator Capt. Terry Taylor, Schaller was told by neighbors two people were living in the home.

"He opened the door and found thick black smoke to within a couple of feet of the floor," Taylor said. "He shouted and heard a man respond."

Schaller retreated and took a breath and opened a window by the front door and then forced up the garage roll-up door where he found resident Greg Helfrich, 52.

"Helfrich was standing in the garage, which was filling with smoke," Taylor said. "He was disoriented, so Schaller yanked him out of the garage."

Thinking the other resident, Kim Brooks, 55, was still in the home, Schaller went around the back and tore down the rear fence. Brooks was standing on the back patio.

Firefighters from Gardnerville, Sheridan, Fish Springs and Minden joined those from the Gardnerville Ranchos in fighting the blaze.

Taylor said the fire started in the southwest corner bedroom, where Brooks said he'd had a fire earlier in the day.

"Brooks was smoking when his cigarette fell behind the mattress, and it got the bed clothes going, spread to the curtains," Taylor said. "He and Helfrich put that out and they thought it was out."

Brooks went out and when he returned the home was on fire.

Taylor said wind fanned the flames that eventually consumed the home and its contents. Two cats died in the fire.

The American Red Cross helped Brooks. Taylor said he had Helfrich taken into custody after he tried to enter the fire scene several times.

"He was wandering around trying to get back into the house and he succeeded a couple of times," Taylor said.

The home is owned by Barbara Briston, who Taylor said was working in New Mexico.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment