Wendy Alexander/The Madera TribuneTracy Patterson walks near the area where he found Reoung Hum unable to get up amongst a grass fire. Hum suffered burns on her arms, legs and face. (Wendy Alexander)
A family in Madera County is in gratitude after their grandmother, and their home, were saved from a grassfire in their front yard by an “angel” living close by.
For Tracy Patterson, 52, his Monday afternoon had seemed uneventful enough. He was doing measurements on a friend’s home on Steward Road near the Madera Lakes, when he saw smoke coming from a house down the street.
“I heard a noise. I thought it was the animals at her house,” said Patterson. “And I turned around and looked the other way, and there was smoke.
Patterson then got into his jeep, and drove towards the smoke to investigate. Upon doing so, Patterson found the neighbor’s front yard was on fire, and that Reoung Hum, 79, was sitting in the flames.
Hum, a Cambodian immigrant, was staying with her daughter and son-in-law, Dwayne and Vanessa Pitts, another daughter, and their children. The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed that Hum had fallen in the yard, and was unable to get up. Her husband, who is battling Alzheimer’s disease, was inside the house with their 6-year-old granddaughter, and was unable to help.
Seeing Hum in danger, Patterson immediately pulled her out of the flames, carried her to safety, and called 911. While waiting for the first responders, Patterson proceeded to take a hose, and attack the fire, which had gotten dangerously close to the house’s propane tank. Ten minutes later, CalFire arrived to take over.
Hum suffered minor burns from the fire. A medical helicopter was dispatched, but turned back when an ambulance arrived, and it was determined that an airlift was unnecessary. Hum was taken to the Regional Medical Center in Fresno, and was released later that evening. She is expected to make a full recovery, but without Patterson’s quick thinking, the event could have easily become tragic.
“If he hadn’t been there, that house would’ve burned up, and that man with Alzheimer’s, and the (girl) that was with him,” said Christina Fisher, Patterson’s friend, whose house Patterson was doing measurements for. “It was just a godsend that he happened to be there in the brief moment that he stopped by.”
As for Hum, she has expressed her gratitude for Patterson, to whom she is referring as her “angel.”
“And then she still couldn’t tell her family what happened,” said Shirley Fisher, Christina Fisher’s mother. “She just knew that this happened, and then some ‘angel man’ showed up.”
“She doesn’t speak very good English, and she just said that the man said, ‘come on, grandma; we gotta get you out of here. Come on, grandma, let’s go,’” Christina Fisher said.
Patterson, however, has said that his actions were nothing exceptional, and according to him, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“I don’t think I did anything that any of our friends, or anybody else out here wouldn’t have done.”