Neighbors help elderly couple escape house fire

Home where couple lived for decades declared total loss

Firefighters work to put out a fire in the 300 blk. of Rector.
Firefighters work to put out a fire in the 300 blk. of Rector.

SAN ANTONIO – An 87-year-old man and 85-year-old woman escaped a two-alarm fire at their home on E. Rector Monday night thanks to their neighbors.

"They became aware of the fire by neighbors actually ringing their doorbell saying, 'Your garage is on fire,'" Assistant Fire Chief Oscar Gonzalez said.

Marco Contreras says someone was already calling for help when he arrived, so he came to the aid of the couple as smoke spilled from their garage into their home.

"When I'm trying to help, they open the door. The old lady is already trying to open the door. I helped to take her out. I give her to this guy and I take the old man that is coming out of the house," Contreras said.

Firefighters say the fire started when chemicals stored too close to a gas water heater burst into flames.

Large trees out front made fighting the fire a tough task, despite having 27 fire units on the scene.

Two of the five children who were raised in the house returned on Tuesday to load the charred remains of their parents' memories into the back of a pickup.

They say their parents traveled around the world while in the Air Force and bought the house as soon they moved back from Germany.

Neighbors say the couple has lived there as long as anyone can remember.

Even though there's not much left, the children say their parents -- not the things they've collected over the years -- is what they treasure.

IMAGES: Rector house fire