Neighbor rushes to mother’s aid during KC fire to rescue her and two sons

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A mother’s screams, a neighbor’s quick reaction, smoke and flames pouring out of a Kansas City home. That was the scene Friday morning in the 3700 block of Roberts. Firefighters responded to a person-trapped-on-a-roof call shortly after 10 a.m. When first responders got there, the mother had already jumped off the roof to safety, but smoke and flames were pouring out of the two-story home.

Maria Herrera said she was upstairs folding her sons’ laundry when she saw smoke and flames coming up the stairs. She realized her two boys were trapped downstairs, and climbed out of a window onto a ledge to scream for help.

“I saw the smoke coming upstairs. And I tried to go downstairs to get my kids but it was too late,” she said

Her neighbor, 25-year-old Julio Gonzalez, and two other men were standing outside. That’s when they heard and saw the woman’s pleas for help. Gonzalez said Herrera screamed, “Sacan a mis ninos por favor,” which means, “Take my sons outside please.”

Gonzalez said he was very scared, but used his elbow and fist to punch through a first-floor window.

“I saw the kids screaming, yelling. And I went inside. I broke the window and I took them out,” he said.

The quick-responding man took the kids, five-year-old Anthony and three-year-old Mikey, outside to safety. He says he and his brother and a friend then backed his pickup truck to the front of the house so Herrera could jump from the ledge to safety, where she joined her two boys on the side of the street.

The boys’ father and Herrera’s husband, Adrian Grimaldo, was gone at work.

“I was helpless. I was miles away. She gave me a call frantic, I felt for the worse, and I rushed home. Dropped all my tools. Dropped everything that I was doing. Rushed home,” Grimaldo said.

He embraced the man he says he doesn’t even know, saying in Spanish, “Todo mi vida. Todo mi vida. (My whole life. My whole life.)” Grimaldo said, “To tell you the truth, I don’t really know them. We usually keep to ourselves over here. I’m just thankful that they came and saved my kids’ lives. I owe my life to them.”

“When we showed up, we had heavy fire coming out of the windows of the first and second floor, and smoke could be seen all the way to 20th and Carson,” acting Battalion Chief Captain Gary Wait said.

Firefighters stopped the flames, but the family says the home is irrelevant.

“We’re just going to have to pick up from ground zero. I don’t care about material, none of that matters to me. My house is nothing. Just my family,” Grimaldo said.

“He is my hero, my kids’ hero. For real, if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would’ve happened,” a grateful Herrera said.

Paramedics transported the mother and boys to a hospital to be on the safe side. One of the boys suffered a minor burn to the forehead. Fire investigators said the cause of the fire was two deficient space heaters. They encourage you to take this time as colder temperatures approach, to check out the ones you have at home.

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