Firefighters say thanks to the heroic actions of one woman, a weekend grease fire in an apartment was quickly extinguished and no one was seriously injured.
Victoria Rubio said when she heard her downstairs neighbor shouting “Fire!” she grabbed a fire extinguisher, ran inside the smoke-filled apartment and put the fire out, putting aside her own concerns for safety and sustaining second-degree burns to her foot and severe smoke inhalation.
“It all happened so fast,” Rubio said, “All I could think was to get the fire extinguisher.”
About 4 p.m., Rubio and her son and daughter were sitting in their apartment, in the 300 block of West Frontier Street, watching TV with the front window open.
Their downstairs neighbor, who was working on her computer, forgot she had a pan of oil heating on the stove for fry bread. When the woman noticed smoke filling the apartment, she shouted “Fire” and tried to break the glass on the fire extinguisher outside her apartment, but could not. The woman’s daughter (who is coincidently Rubio’s son’s girlfriend) was in the shower at the time and ran out of the bathroom in a towel into the smoke filled apartment.
Hearing the woman’s cries, Rubio smashed the Plexiglas on the fire extinguisher outside her home and with her two kids ran down the steps to their neighbor’s apartment.
Rubio and her son rushed into the apartment, which was filled with thick, black smoke. A huge ball of flames on the stovetop had spread to overhead cabinets and was quickly spreading to the ceiling. Rubio’s son grabbed a cup of water and threw it on the flames before Rubio could stop him.
The water splashed the oil, sending flames onto the carpet. Rubio, unaware of the burning carpet, sprayed the kitchen wildly with the extinguisher until the fire was out. Rubio then searched the apartment to make sure no one else was inside. She estimated she spent six minutes breathing in the smoke.
When firefighters arrived, the fire was already out, but Rubio was having trouble breathing, was spitting up black and white mucus and her hand and foot were bleeding.
Medics gave Rubio oxygen, but her airway was closing up from all of the smoke.
Rubio was transported to the Maricopa Burn Unit, treated and released at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The bottom of her right foot sustained second-degree burns and her hands are covered in cuts from the Plexiglas.
Rubio said she never thought she would do something like that, but would “do it again.”
Payson Fire Battalion Chief Dan Bramble said while the PFD does not encourage homeowners to fight fires, Rubio’s actions saved the apartment from severe damage. Although the kitchen was badly damaged, the rest of the complex was unaffected.
Bramble said the best way to put a grease fire out is with baking soda. Water on the other hand only fuels a fire. Bramble suggested homeowners keep a box of baking soda or powder near the stove for such emergencies.