As heavy fire consumed a Kingsburg home last fall, two firefighters bravely approached with a perilous mission: save the lives of people believed to still be inside.
Fresno County Cal Fire Capt. Seth Brown, 43, was determined to do just that as he entered a smoke-filled window the night of Oct. 29 along Roosevelt Street near 10th Avenue. His quick decision saved the life of an unconscious young woman, who he passed to safety through the window to firefighter Brenton Sanders, 31.
The two were honored for their heroic actions Wednesday night in Sanger during a meeting of the Fresno County Fire Protection District Board of Directors. In resolutions presented to the men, the fire district lauded them for their dedication and sacrifice as “intense smoke and fire grew, spreading throughout other parts of the building.”
But they weren’t able to save everyone. The firefighters said the young woman’s mother died in the fire. Firefighters weren’t able to reach her in another bedroom. Neither woman was identified at Wednesday’s event, but the Kingsburg Recorder reported that Debra Ohanesian, 49, died in the fire and her daughter, Nikki Nicole Ohanesian, 19, was saved.
Brown and Sanders work at Cal Fire Station 83, between Selma and Kingsburg. They happened to be in Kingsburg when the fire was called out. Arriving within minutes, they found the front of the home aflame. Making their way to the backyard, fire swarmed a back door so they used a tool to shatter a bedroom window.
There were obvious risks to entering: If unseen fire was creeping through the attic, the roof could collapse on them, and there was the possibility the fire could travel too fast, trapping them inside. But after quickly reviewing the situation, Brown realized he might have a literal “window of opportunity” to save a life.
Once inside, Brown spotted Nikki Nicole Ohanesian laying unconscious in bed. He told Sanders to stay outside as he passed her to him. Sanders put her over his shoulder and then set her on the ground.
Tim Ray, chief of the Kingsburg Fire Department, said Ohanesian was breathing before paramedics rushed her to the hospital. He said investigators suspect the fire was caused by an appliance in the kitchen. It’s not known whether there were working smoke alarms in the home.
Brown and Sanders say they were just doing what they were trained to do. “The timing was right,” Brown said. “We just happened to be there and happened to get there so quickly.”
Both firefighters said they’re grateful they were able to save at least one life that night.
“Being a firefighter, you see a lot of negative stuff,” Sanders said. “It’s always good to see something positive come out of it.”