Man hailed as hero after helping seniors out of burning building

Man hailed as hero after helping seniors out of burning building »Play Video
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- A Minnesota man who came to Wenatchee to play hockey is now get praise for playing hero in the wake of a fire at a local senior home.

What started the fire inside? No one knows. But the 73-year-old woman inside was on oxygen. The room exploded, but the 149 others in the building had no idea.

"I was downstairs having dinner and heard the alarms go off. That's not unusual, because kids sneak in and pull them," said resident Dave Quigley.

It was no prank, but Wenatchee and the seniors were in luck. Mitch Torrel was driving by and saw flames lighting up a fourth-floor window. He pulled over.

"As I was calling 911, the window blew out. And parts of the window ended up on the pavement," said Torrel.

Calling 911 might be what most would do. But Torrel didn't stop there. He rushed inside to what was rapidly becoming hell.

"I couldn't see my hand in front of me," said home resident John Jackson.

The lights had melted. The hallway was dark and filled with smoke so thick the white walls were black.

Torrel pounded on locked doors and helped people with walkers, people who couldn't walk on their own.

"I helped a couple of people down the stairs. Carried their walkers and grabbed them under the arms, and helped them down," he said.

It will be a month before people can move back in. But more importantly, it was Torrel who helped them get out.

"The whole thing, the whole thing is an absolutely testimony to the fire department and the people of Wenatchee. It's an absolutely testimony," said Quigley.

The fire department says eight people were hospitalized -- seven as a result of the fire, one from a panic attack. But they say it could have been much worse.

Told many consider him a hero, Torrel was overwhelmed, adding, "Anyone would have done it."

The woman who lived inside the room where the fire started is in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center.