Man rescues neighbor from burning, smoke-engulfed home

GOLD BAR — Sean Armstrong was hanging out at home Tuesday afternoon when he smelled something burning.

The 27-year-old saw smoke outside.

“I heard someone, clear as day, yell, ‘Help!’” he said.

Armstrong asked others to call 911 before he ran to the burning mobile home along Goldbar Boulevard. A woman told him someone was inside. He could see the garden hose running into the house, as if someone had tried to fight the flames.

A man was face-down inside the door. He was screaming.

“The full top half of the door had smoke coming out of it,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong has a bad arm. Childhood bone problems were exacerbated by an unsuccessful surgery after high school, he said. Trouble with the arm lost him his job as a park maintenance worker, he said.

He’s a big guy, about 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. The man in the house was taller and heavier.

Armstrong tried to pull the man to safety. He became overwhelmed with smoke and retreated to the yard, coughing. Then, the man stopped yelling.

“I knew that it was now or never,” Armstrong said.

He crouched to avoid the smoke and again dragged the man. This time he got the man’s head and upper body onto the porch. At that point, he heard him take a deep breath, he said.

When firefighters arrived moments later, the man was still in the doorway. He had life-threatening burns. He was taken in a helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

On Thursday, he was transferred out of intensive care, according to the hospital. He was listed in satisfactory condition. He is described as being in his 50s.

The cause of the two-alarm fire remains under investigation. It serves as an important reminder to “get out and stay out,” Gold Bar firefighters posted on Facebook.

Armstrong “risked his life to go in and help this guy,” Fire Chief Eric Andrews said. “It was so hot and smoky, anyone who entered that would have been risking their life, without any equipment. That’s pretty brave.”

After the fire, Armstrong went home, took a shower and coughed for a long time. The firefighters told him to seek medical attention if he starts feeling sick, but he thinks he’s OK.

Aside from living down the road, Armstrong didn’t know the man in the house.

“I didn’t have any obligation to him,” he said. “I was just doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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