20-year-old credited with saving man’s life
Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
Thursday night just before midnight, 20-year-old Lydell B. Wyatt was driving home from visiting a friend in Indian Hills when he noticed smoke and fire coming from a home in Ridgeview Estates.
“I was coming down the hill and could see flames coming from the roof of a house, so I drove over there,” he said. Arriving at the double-wide modular home at the end of Princeton Avenue, Wyatt saw a car parked out front, and no other sign of anyone. The lights were out in the burning home.
“I looked around and nobody was outside – no neighbors or anyone – so I realized no one was aware of the fire, yet,” he said. “I went up and started ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door and in about 30 seconds, this man came to the door. I think he wondered who I was, and I told him he should get dressed and come outside because his house was on fire. I don’t know if he could understand me, and he had an accent so it was hard for me to understand him, but when I took him out on the porch and showed him the fire, I could see that he understood. Then I told him to call 911.”
Wyatt said the man, 64-year-old George A. Sznytzer, went back into the house and handed a phone to him so he could call, which he did.
“Inside, I could hear the crackling and by then I started to get nervous. I told the man he might want to grab his wallet and keys so he could move his car, which he did,” Wyatt said. “The first fire truck was here right away.”
Fortunately, the Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Department building is right down the street, about four blocks away. The fire, which was reported at around 11:55 p.m., was knocked down within 15 minutes, according to Capt. Rich Riolo, fire investigator with the Nevada Division of Forestry.
– Could have been deadly. In spite of the quick action, Riolo said the potential for a deadly outcome was definitely present had Wyatt not been on the scene.
“I firmly believe that if Lydell Wyatt hadn’t woke this man up, we’d have lost him,” Riolo said. “Smoke wasn’t getting into the house – it was in the attic – so it couldn’t activate the smoke detector. We lost the whole back end of the house. The roof caved in on the back bedrooms.”
Sznytzer had been sleeping in the other end of the small modular home, Riolo said, but would have been vulnerable in no time. The attic area and a large section of the roof were destroyed. Some rooms were heavily damaged by water and structural collapse. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Riolo said.
– Many parties responded. Firefighters from the Nevada Division of Forestry were assisted by units from the Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Department, East Fork Fire Protection District and the Carson City Fire Department. There were no injuries to the approximately 20 firefighters on the scene.
The Red Cross also responded to the scene and is assisting Sznytzer with motel accommodations.
NDF investigators remained on the scene throughout early Friday morning to make sure the fire was completely out and begin their investigation into the cause of the fire.
Midday on Friday, investigators had determined that the electric smoke detectors in the house did not have a battery backup, but could not say whether that was a significant factor.
Capt. Chuck Witte of NDF, did say, however, that it is a good idea to have a battery backup on electrical smoke detectors and on battery-powered detectors, regular battery changes are important.
“We recommend that people check their smoke detectors once a month and change the batteries with each time change,” he said.
Witte said that approximately 90 percent of the interior contents of Sznytzer’s home had been salvaged, although he was unsure if the house would be deemed totaled or repairable.
n About a young hero. Wyatt was born in Reno and raised in the Carson Valley, leaving for a few years after 9th grade. He attended Douglas High School and is currently studying for his impending GED exam. Wyatt is employed by the Washoe Tribe, attending heavy equipment operating school from now until mid-summer. He currently lives with his father, Lloyd Wyatt. His mother Claudia Wyatt lives in Spokane, Wash.
Wyatt said he stood with Sznytzer for several hours as the firefighters worked on the house, and was unable to leave because his car was blocked by firetrucks.
“I told them and they said it was going to be a while before I could get out,” he said.
Wyatt said Sznytzer was almost expressionless as he watched the scene.
“He didn’t say much,” Wyatt said. “I don’t feel like I did anything anyone else would have done. I just hope that if my house is on fire someday, someone will come and wake me up.”