HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pasco County deputy who was on patrol in Hudson just after 6 a.m. on Nov. 2 had no idea his morning was about to take a major turn upon word of a house fire.
“Units responding to the structure fire, be advised the neighbors’ house is on fire now, too. Caller is unsure if the neighbors are inside,” a sheriff’s office dispatcher is heard saying over the radio.
Seconds later, Deputy Noah Yanzer activates his lights and siren and races toward the scene on Driftwood Drive, not far from U.S. Highway 19.
“An additional caller is on the line advising there are two elderly people and a dog inside the home,” the dispatcher says. “Power lines are now catching fire as well.”
The situation then gets a whole lot worse.
“We have an additional caller that was advising the house was on fire and she was inside with others,” the dispatcher says. “She’s not responding to call takers and there was screaming in the background.”
Deputy Yanzer arrives at the scene about two minutes later.
“Multiple houses are engulfed in flames,” Yanzer says over the radio as he begins to run toward the homes.
The body-worn camera video given to 8 On Your Side shows smoke and huge flames at the scene. Upon the deputy’s arrival, two homes were on fire and strong winds were whipping the flames.
As Yanzer nears one of the homes, he screams, “get out! Come on!” Seconds later, he ushers an elderly man, who is standing near the home, to the roadway.
Two nearby homes sustained heat and fire damage, according to fire officials. At one point in the video, the deputy approaches the side door of one of the homes and bangs on it repeatedly. No one answers.
Yanzer then helps Mercedes Lopez leave her driveway. The woman is frantic because her small dog refused to leave the driveway.
“Hey!” the deputy screams, then says in a soft tone, “come here, puppy.”
The deputy scoops up the dog and runs away from the home. Lopez is then reunited with her dog.
The Pasco County Fire Rescue Department sent dozens of firefighters to the scene. It took roughly an hour to put out the flames.
According to a department spokesman, a man in one of the homes was flown to Tampa General Hospital with severe burns. The man’s condition is unknown.
8 On Your Side spoke to Brittany Galvin. Her grandparents, Lopez and Ron Alward, were saved by the deputy. Their home burned to the ground.
“I don’t know how they got out. We’re just so thankful,” Galvin said. “I’ve never seen a fire that big in my life. I still feel like I’m in some type of movie. It was crazy. I’ve cried the entire time watching the movie, I cried the entire time watching the video. It was way more severe than me or anybody in my family knew.”
While her grandparents lost everything except the clothes on their backs and Lopez’s wedding ring, they are moving forward as best as possible.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle. There’s no given way other than God that they got out of there. No way. That is them. And they still have their marriage,” she said. “And they still have their humor. And they were still holding on to each other. Still making jokes. And I don’t know how that’s possible.”
Galvin expressed her gratitude to the deputy.
“I think this video portrays what most deputies and cops are. I think this video portrays what most first responders are, and I think it portrays the reason that first responders and cops become first responders and cops,” she said.
The body cam video shows huge flames around 6:26 a.m., roughly half an hour into the situation. By then, the scene was teeming with firefighters and dozens of trucks.
Yanzer can he heard briefly speaking to a firefighter before the video ends.
“Three houses that are vacant,” the deputy says. “Same thing on this side. I got everybody out.”
LATEST NEWS FROM WFLA.COM:
- Tampa’s 2021 Gasparilla pirate festivities postponed until April due to coronavirus
- Getting tested for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving in Tampa Bay
- White House Christmas Tree arrival, presidential turkeys kick off holiday traditions in DC
- ‘All people’ should avoid travel on cruise ships, CDC warns
- Dog-sized lizards spreading in southeastern US