Fire Survivor Says Teamwork Saved Lives

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Gerardo Garcia was among the residents who barely escaped Saturday night's burning apartment building at 1306 Southwest Harrison Street.

"I was panicking, I was making sure everyone was out and evacuated," the Topeka High School sophomore told 13 News.

Gerardo Garcia shot dramatic rescue scenes on his small camera after he, his parents, a brother and a baby sister escaped the flames, running from the building.

But others were still inside. That's when his dad turned back toward the flames.

"I just stayed out here in the entrance, saying 'Dad, hurry up!'" he said. "Don't go back in there; it's not worth it!" he yelled after his dad. He ended up running back into the building after his father, who was trying to help a neighbor.

The Garcias occupied unit 20. The fire started in unit 18. Gerardo Garcia says the couple in No. 18 was cooking dinner and had their dog locked in another room, while they were eating. That's when the fire broke out.

"The guy was over there going through the hallway asking for help for his dog. But my dad, when he saw him, that all the flames were coming out, my dad went after guy and pulled him out and got him," the younger Garcia said. "But [the neighbor] was crying. he was suffering."

The dog was still locked inside.

Sunday morning, apartment staff reopened the building to allow families back inside.

Garcia went over to inspect the damage. He says if it weren't for first responders, the destruction could have been worse.

"I want to tell them, they did an awesome job last night," he said. "Thank you for helping us here with these difficulties that we have. Thank you very much. We loved your teamwork and everything that you guys did," he said.

He says they saved residents' lives, including that of his neighbor's dog.

"The fire department found the dog, They laid him on the floor. One of the police officers took him to the ambulance and gave him oxygen," he said. A snapshot shows a female officer carrying the dog. "The dog started breathing again and coughing." Garcia said "And there it is."

"The dog was saved," he said.

One fire victim was transported to a local hospital and was reported in stable condition. Most victims were treated and released at the scene with minor injures.

The Red Cross assisted with lodging and support for 20 adults and 5 children displaced by the fire.