A typical drive to work on Wednesday morning for Patrice Douglas was anything but ordinary, as she risked her own life to save two others from a home that was on fire.
“I just ran in there,” she said. “I don’t know how I got her out of the house; I don’t know how I got in there. You don’t expect to go to work and pull someone out of a burning building.”
The scene unfolded about 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the home of Carlos Loera, who was at the house in the 7000 block of State Highway 123 North, with his mom and sister.
“I heard a pop, and the house filled up with smoke,” Loera said. “The next thing you know, the fire just spread like that, in no time at all.”
It was about that same time that Douglas and her husband were on their way to work. Douglas said she was looking out the window as her husband was driving and saw a flicker of light.
The moment her husband looked out the window, she said the flicker turned to a flash, and she saw the smoke and flames emitting from the old home.
The couple turned around and went back to the house, calling 9-1-1 in the process, said Douglas, who worked previously as a dispatcher and hostage negotiator in California before moving to Texas.
The home belonged to the Loera family, who has lived there since 1962, Carlos said.
“We’ve had floods before, and it never really got into the house, it got close but it never really got into the house,” he said. “This is the first time this ever happened. I lived here all my life, since ’62.”
Loera was outside the home when the Douglas’ arrived.
“He was walking out in shorts, and he just kind of looked at us in shock,” she said. “He had the hose on, but he kept trying to walk back in.”
That’s when Douglas learned that Loera’s mom and sister were still in the house.
“I ran in there,” she said. “At this point, the smoke was coming in through the wall, and you could see the wall bubbling.”
It took Douglas a little bit to convince Loera’s sister to get out, as she kept insisting that her brother was taking caring of things, Douglas said.
“I kept telling her you gotta go, and she kept saying he has it,” Douglas said. “I grabbed her crutches and helped her to the door.”
Without thinking, Douglas headed back into the house to find Loera’s mother. Douglas said she also had to convince the second woman to evacuate the home.
“We grabbed her walker, she grabbed her purse, I got behind her and I just helped her from the back, holding her up and we walked out,” she said. “By that time, the whole house was full of smoke. When I walked passed the kitchen, it was just a wall of flames.”
Douglas was able to get both women out of the house and safely across SH 123.
“My husband and I kept trying to pull Carlos away,” she said. “He wouldn’t get away from the house. After we got him away from the house and mom and sister across the street, I started directing traffic.”
When pulling the women from the house, Douglas said she didn’t have time to react, and neither did the women.
“You can’t think, you just act,” she said.
Loera’s mom left the house without shoes, and Douglas took her’s off and gave them to the elder Loera.
Guadalupe County Fire Marshal Patrick Pinder said the fire was initially reported as multiple buildings. However, when crews arrived, they found the family’s home fully engulfed in flames.
“The fire was reported by a passing motorist, who assisted in removing the occupants of the home and made sure everyone was safe,” he said. “The home was occupied by three people — two adult females and one adult male. No injuries were reported.”
Firefighters were able to contain the fire quickly, however, they received assistance from Guadalupe County Road and Bridge with gaining access to the flames that were under the home, Pinder said.
“There was heavy fire and heat damage throughout the structure,” he said. “The kitchen, bedroom and living room were completely consumed by the fire. Three bedrooms were left with heavy smoke and heat damage. Road and Bridge came out to assist with the removal of the floor.”
Through preliminary investigation, Pinder said the fire appeared to have started in a bedroom and appears electrical in nature. An exact cause has not yet been determined and is under investigation.
“It breaks my heart,” Loera said. “My mom is old. Luckily nobody was hurt. My mom and my sister live here, my two brothers, but they already took off for work. I’m a Gulf War vet; I take care of them. I take them everywhere.”
The Red Cross was called to help the family, Pinder said. Douglas said she plans to stay in contact with the family, especially with the holidays coming up.
“I want to make sure they have somewhere to go, and they feel the love,” she said.