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Neighbors rescue man trapped in burning mobile home

By KBell
March 1, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.

A trailer on Coleto Road continues to smolder into the evening as several pump trucks from Victoria and Coleto Creek Volunteer Fire Department attempt to cool off the remains.

Ignoring the burnt pieces of ceiling falling onto his skin, Woodie Vowell helped drag his neighbor and friend out of a burning mobile home Tuesday afternoon.

Neighbors identified the man as Andy Martinez, a retiree and veteran, who was badly charred in the fire that destroyed the home in the 400 block of Coleto Drive about 4:40 p.m.

"He's been a friend of ours for 10 years," Vowell said of Martinez. "He'd have done it for me."

Martinez was taken by ambulance to Citizens Medical Center, where he was in critical condition and being prepared to transport to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, a spokesperson at the Victoria hospital said.

Vowell, 47, said he and another man noticed the flames and went inside to rescue Martinez.

With gauze covering a burn on his arm, Vowell recalled Martinez was laying on the floor, trapped behind the front door.

The other man, who Vowell said he had never met, was able to pry Martinez from behind the door, and Vowell helped drag Martinez away from the flames and a nearby propane tank.

"Everybody sticks together out here," Vowell said.

Vowell said Martinez was later walking and lucid enough to give Vowell his daughter's cell phone number.

An ambulance was first to arrive on the scene, and Martinez was transported before firefighters could verify his identity or condition, said County Fire Marshal Ron Pray.

"Hopefully he'll be fine. He's a really good person," said neighbor Eric Mandel. "Bad things happen to good people."

One after another, bystanders described Martinez as a good neighbor and a good man.

Eric said Martinez would regularly offer up his home for people without a place to go, and he'd even sometimes mow his neighbors' yards.

"Andy's such a good person," said Eric's father, Lee Mandel. "When they took him away, he was waving."

Lee said he busted out the trailer's windows with a two-by-four to allow smoke to escape, fearing someone else may be in the home.

Neighbors said there were several explosion sounds, which could have been gas tanks or fireworks.

Lee also said the fire was one of the quickest-spreading he'd ever seen.

"In five minutes, the trailer was gone," he said.

Firefighters from the Victoria Fire Department and the Raisin and Quail Creek volunteer fire departments were working to demolish the collapsing home Tuesday night.

Pray said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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