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Goliad man saves longtime neighbor from house fire (Video)

By ErinPradia
Dec. 13, 2011 at 6:13 a.m.
Updated Dec. 14, 2011 at 6:14 a.m.

John Friedrichs II poses for a portrait outside his neighbor Jane Rodriguez's house on Tuesday in Goliad. Friedrichs carried Rodriguez out of her house as it filled with smoke because of a  fire Tuesday morning.

A Goliad man rescued an elderly neighbor from a fire in her home Tuesday morning.

John Friedrichs, 40, was in his shower when he heard his next-door neighbor screaming. After taking a moment to throw on some jeans and call 911, Friedrichs ran barefoot across the lawn to help.

He found his neighbor Jane Rodriguez, 83, in a smoke filled kitchen near the table trying to salvage her belongings.

He carried Rodriguez out the back door to safety just before the house became completely engulfed in flames.

"Mrs. Rodriguez never missed church, and she always prayed. As I pulled her from the house, she kept asking "What have I been doing wrong? I must have done something wrong for this to happen," Friedrichs said.

As flames leapt out the windows toward Rodriguez's new car, Friedrichs towed it using his truck and chains.

The fire started at 8:16 a.m., said Goliad Volunteer Fire Chief Alonzo Morales Jr. and was extinguished about three hours later at 11:04 a.m. by 14 volunteer firefighters.

Robbie Friedrichs, John's mother, who was also a neighbor, gave Rodriguez a pair of her shoes and comforted her along with other neighbors as they waited for the fire to be extinguished.

Rodriguez was not only a neighbor but a close family friend of the Friederichs. Rodriguez attended church with the Friedrichs and made Christmas scarves for both their daughters, RaLeigh Jo Friedrichs, 9, and Madlynn Friedrichs, 8.

"We used to sit on her porch and make necklaces out of the tops of coke cans," said Madlynn, near tears when she thought of how close she was to losing her neighbor.

The Friedrichs all said Rodriguez was very independent.

"She mowed her own lawn," John Friedrichs said. "The girls had to fight to help her take out her trash."

His wife, Nicole Friedrichs, 30, said Rodriguez did not want to bother anyone. At 83, she still works, "taking care of old people," sitting with people who are ill.

"Most of her clients are younger than her," Friedrichs mused.

Nicole Friedrichs said she was grateful for the skills demonstrated by the local volunteer fire department and the extra care they showed.

"These are the guys you see around town, the folks who attend the fairs," Friedrichs said. "We handed out bottled water for them - they were really busting their butts out there. Then, one of them took the time to pick up the water bottles they drank from. Even though there was other trash out there."

A smoldering mattress re-kindled about 3:30 p.m. the same day and was put out shortly thereafter, Morales said.

The cause of the initial fire is still under investigation, Morales said.

The home, which was insured, was declared a loss, and there were no injuries.

"John said anyone would do what he did, but I think it takes a special kind of person," said Goliad Mayor Jay Harvey. "It takes courage to risk your life to save someone else's. We're fortunate to have such a fine man as part of our community."

Rodriguez had lived in her home since about 1970, and John Friedrichs had grown up with Rodriguez as a neighbor, Nicole Friedrichs said.

"Mrs. Rodriguez told me this afternoon, 'When John was 5 years old, he used to sit on my back porch and ask, "Whatcha doing Mrs. Rodriguez? Whatcha doing?" And today, he saved my life.'"



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