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Neighbor, police rescue residents from Aurora fire

Firefighters from AurorNorth AurorSugar Grove battled house fire Wednesday morning 900 block Garfield Avenue Aurora. Police said three people were

Firefighters from Aurora, North Aurora and Sugar Grove battled a house fire Wednesday morning in the 900 block of Garfield Avenue in Aurora. Police said three people were transported from the home with injuries. | Erika Wurst~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 20, 2014 8:14AM



Josue Lopez was still in a little bit of shock Wednesday afternoon, and with good reason. He had had quite the morning.

It’s not every day an 18-year-old rescues two people from a burning home, but that’s exactly how the morning played out for the Aurora resident.

Lopez and his family were leaving their Garfield Avenue home around 9:55 a.m. Wednesday when they heard the screams.

A young woman had come barreling out of her home at 922 Garfield Ave. as flames licked away at the inside of the house.

“She said her parents were upstairs,” Lopez said. “I thought, I have got to do something.”

Without hesitation, Lopez charged toward the scene. When he got there, he realized the grave nature of the situation.

“I could hear (a man and woman) screaming. They had smashed one of the windows,” Lopez said.

Inside the home, Dave Dykstra, 51, and his wife Valerie, 50, were desperate to escape.

“They were really bloody because of the broken glass,” Lopez said. “We had to get them out of there. I could see flames everywhere. The house was going down.”

Lopez said he had to act quickly.

“I went and found a ladder, but it was chained up. I was pulling with all of my force, but it was impossible to get free,” Lopez said.

He needed a new plan. He went back to the roof and begged the couple to jump.

“I’ll catch you,” Lopez pleaded.

Then, three Aurora police officers arrived on the scene, and were able to cut the ladder free. They hoisted the ladder onto the roof of a rear porch, and ushered the Dykstras to safety.

It took more than 50 firefighters from three departments two hours to extinguish the fire, which left the home at 922 Garfield just a charred, wooden frame.

“The fire got into the walls and attic, making it very difficult to extinguish,” Aurora Police Department spokesman Dan Ferrelli said.

Aurora Fire Department Lt. Craig Mateski said in a press release that the first firefighters on the scene “encountered a large volume of fire in the front interior and exterior of the home, which extended up the exterior of the home to the second floor and attic area.”

He said that 50 firefighters fought the fire, including those from Aurora with help from the Sugar Grove and North Aurora fire departments.

The Aurora Fire Department received help from the Naperville and Oswego departments to handle calls while Aurora’s resources were tied up trying to control the blaze.

The fire was extinguished shortly after noon.

Both Dave and Valerie Dykstra were taken to area hospitals where they were treated for cuts and smoke inhalation. They were listed in stable condition late Wednesday afternoon.

Their daughter, Victoria, and four family dogs escaped uninjured.

“I was scared, but I had to help them out. I wasn’t going to leave them there,” Lopez said of his rescue efforts. “People keep saying I am a hero. No. I just helped out. I hope someone would do that for us, too. I didn’t even think about it. You just gotta do what you gotta do.”

The fire caused more than $300,000 in damage to the structure and contents of the home. No cause has been determined. Members of the Aurora Fire Department Arson Team continue their investigation.



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