Neighbor tries to bash in burglar bars to save elderly hoarder from burning home

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Fire officials say woman's hoarding made it hard to rescue her from fire. (KTRK)

A 76-year-old woman is recovering in ICU at the hospital after fire destroyed her home. The woman was trapped behind a window with burglar bars as the fire grew bigger and bigger.

The fire started around 5:30 a.m. in the two-story house on South Youngwood Lane in northwest Houston.

Randy Ruiz was getting ready for work, putting his tennis shoes on, when he saw the flames. Barefoot and adrenaline pumping, Ruiz ran across the street to try and save his elderly neighbor.

"She was stuck," Ruiz said. "She was just screaming, 'Please save me! Please help me out!' I said just cover your face!"

Ruiz said the woman was trapped behind iron burglar bars that wouldn't budge. He slammed a 45-pound weight plate against the bars over and over but they wouldn't break.

"Her arms were out of her window through the burglar bars," Ruiz said.

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Cell phone video shows neighbor trying to rescue woman from house fire.

Just in time, firefighters arrived. Crews cut the metal bars with a saw and freed the woman.

"Everybody was just panicking. Thank God everybody is safe," Michelle Ordonez said, who lives behind the woman's house.

The 76-year-old was taken to the hospital where she remains on a ventilator that's helping her breathe. Ruiz said she did not appear to be conscious when she was taken away by ambulance.

"I'm a little shaken up, you know? I know her," Ruiz said.

The woman lives alone with five cats. Firefighters say they didn't rescue any animals from the home. What crews did find inside made putting out the fire very tough.

"We would consider this a hoarder's house," said Houston Fire Chief Jim Walterbach.

Friends say, because of the hoarding, they worried this could happen.

"She was hanging out the window," said friend and neighbor of 20 years, Bobbie Snyder. "She was crying for help and they couldn't get to her. This is exactly what I was worried about."

Snyder was emotional talking about what happened. She wants this to be a warning: "If you know a hoarder or someone in this situation, try to do something."

Fire investigators are still trying to figure out how the fire started.

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