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Off-Duty Deputy Rescues Woman, 77, from Brush Fire

Off-Duty Deputy Rescues Woman, 77, from Brush Fire

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El Paso Times via YellowBrix

April 30, 2010

CANUTILLO, TX – An alert sheriff’s deputy rescued a 77-year-old woman from her mobile home after he saw a large brush fire raging next to it about 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

Patrick Gailey, who was off-duty, saw the fire in the 500 block of Joe Angel and quickly realized that high winds were pushing it toward the Gaslight Square mobile home neighborhood, said El Paso County sheriff’s spokesman Jesse Tovar.

Gailey, who had been eating at a nearby restaurant, rushed to the mobile home closest to the fire and forced Angela Moreno to evacuate her home, Tovar said.

“She had no clue how close those flames were. … They were … (within feet of) her residence,” he said.

Moreno’s home would have caught fire if Gailey hadn’t leapt into action as soon as he saw the fire, Tovar said.

The fire consumed about 100 square yards of brush.

Firefighters sprayed the area with water as sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door, alerted people and evacuated them from about 25 mobile homes on the fringe of the fire. They had originally arrived because they received a call about a propane tank explosion, Tovar said.

But as firefighters put out the remnants of the blaze about noon, they found no signs of shrapnel or other debris from a ruptured propane tank. Instead, they found several oil cans and a pile of

burned trash, Tovar said.

Deputies interviewed nearby homeowners and learned that five men had started the fire, he said.

“We think, right now, we have reason to believe that they were burning oil,” Tovar said.

Deputies interviewed two of the men but couldn’t find the others. No arrests were made.

El Paso Electric shut down electricity within a one-mile radius of the fire.

As firefighters tended to piles of smoldering ash, a group of Gaslight Square residents huddled near a fence that separated their homes from the fire.

Ceasar Torres, 21, said a lot of people left after the evacuation began. The nearness of the fire was shocking, he said.

“We didn’t expect to see a full blaze behind our house.”

Torres said he thought the haze outside his window was dirt until he smelled smoke.

He said he and his family went outside to get away from the smoke that seeped in.

“It was a mix of dirt and the crystals from the wood — the chips — it was all over,” Torres said. “They were flying all over the place, smacking you in the face.”

Torres said he was concerned about how close the fire was to propane tanks in the neighborhood and about whether those who started the fire were doing something illegal.

“I hope that whatever they were burning wasn’t something illegal e it doesn’t make sense for them to be burning trash,” he said. “Especially not right now when it’s so windy.”

Tovar said that nobody was hurt and that Gailey’s quick action had a lot to do with that.

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