Cops, neighbors rescue family from burning home


There were five children inside a back bedroom in the home as smoke filled the structure Thursday evening. Neighbors say they pulled several of the children out one window, but others remained inside. That's when a pair of passing Houston police officers entered the picture.

It was a fast moving house fire that generated thick, choking smoke. Neighbors called for help and stopped two HPD patrolmen driving down the street. On Friday those two officers came back to the house to see what was left and relive the minutes that they became firefighters.

"We managed to get one corner pried," said Houston Police Officer John Domingues. "There were several neighbors right here with us."

Inside a bedroom were three teenage girls, trapped by burglar bars. While neighbors did what they could, the officers pried off one set of the bars. Officer Domingues was about to pull one girl out when he was blown out through the window.

"It was hot," he said. "Then whatever it was that blew me out was hotter."

Officer Domingues got up again and he and his partner Officer C.R. Lamunyon continued with the rescue, even as firefighters were arriving. Their response time was just over three minutes, but consider that those three girls in that room are hospitalized -- two listed in critical condition with burn injuries. What the patrol officers did helped save their lives at the time, and that comes from a fire department captain.

HFD Captain Ruy Lozano said, "They actually hoisted the original fireman that rescued the child. The house was engulfed. The fireman went in and he passed them to those original police officers. You couldn't ask for a better ending."

The house had been home to a family of six. Toni Rodgers raised her three daughters, also taking care of her two nieces. All they had is gone and the family has no insurance. Rodgers agreed to speak publicly, but not on camera.

She said, "I took two children in who aren't mine, so I feel that God is going to bless me either way it goes."

Rodgers will be spending her time now with her family at hospitals. She's worried about where they'll live next and about what will happen to the family dog.

As bleak as their outlook may be, the entire family might have died in this fire. And now two patrol officers have a new appreciation for what firefighters do.

"The worst thing that's going to happen to us is somebody throws bullets at us," Officer Lamunyon explained. "But imagine being in there with a flamethrower. That's what these young men do. I'd rather face that any day than fire."

Three young girls remain hospitalized, Rodgers' two nieces and one daughter. One girl is said to be burned severely enough that she is expected to be transferred to Shriner's Burn Center in Galveston.

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