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Hero recalls horrifying moments that led to the rescue of two people from a burning building in Schuylkill County

MINERSVILLE — Standing on his front porch Monday morning, staring at the burned-out shells across the street, Oscar Rivera was in a melancholy mood the day after he rescued a man from a burning house on North Second Street.

“I feel broken-hearted,” he confided. “I want to know how the guy’s doing.”

The guy is Raul Ramirez, who Rivera pulled to safety from through an attic window of 617 N. Second St. shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday.

Ramirez was flown to LVH-Cedar Crest, according to family members. No word was available on his condition.

The three-alarm fire, which did extensive damage to four houses in the 600 block of North Second, remains under investigation by State Police Fire Marshal Joseph Hall.

The Pennsylvania Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting 13 adults and one child displaced by the fire, said Patty Daley, the chapter’s disaster captain. The chapter has been unable to contact residents of two homes that received collateral damage, Daley said Monday.

Late Monday morning, a smoky stench hung in the air over the neighborhood, an enclave of duplexes on a hillside overlooking the town.

Insurance adjusters photographed the ruins of six homes with red “Condemned” signs on their front doors.

A woman who preferred to remain anonymous swept shards of glass from a sidewalk in front of her sister’s house, which she said sustained smoke damage and had a hole in the roof.

Imprinted memories

Oscar Rivera, 48, though modest about his selfless undertaking, recounted the horrifying moments that led to the rescue.

He was in the backyard playing with his children when he heard his spouse frantically calling his name, Rivera said. She had heard a loud boom about 12:45 p.m. and rushed to the front porch to investigate.

On a narrow ledge, a woman was trying to pull a man out of an attic window. A dense cloud of smoke billowed from the window, and the man was calling for help.

Rivera and a neighbor rushed to the burning home and put up a ladder to the front porch roof, he said. To get to the third floor, however, Rivera grabbed hold of an eave on a next door house, hoisted himself up to a ledge and jumped onto the burning building.

“The woman was unable to get the man out,” Rivera said, “The smoke was coming so fast, I moved her aside and grabbed the man’s hands.”

Burning insulation was falling on the man’s back, Rivera said, “and he had burns on his arms.”

When he pleaded “Help me, I can’t walk,” Rivera yanked him from the window and dragged him to safety on the ledge, about 20 feet above the sidewalk.

“I feel bad that I had to pull him like that,” Rivera lamented. “But I wasn’t going to leave him in there.”

Firefighters retrieved the man and woman, who were taken from the scene in ambulances.

Video circulates

A video being circulated on social media details Rivera’s rescue effort. It was shot by Janeen Huth, who lives on Third Street.

She said she was on her way home Sunday one street over when she saw smoke rolling out the window of the house.

“I see a man run across the street with a ladder, go up the ladder and save two people,” she said.

She said she later learned that Rivera had young children of his own watching as he risked his life.

“Oscar is a true hero,” she said.

A native of Patterson, New Jersey, Rivera said he was a Golden Gloves boxing champion in the 106-pound class in 1994. Thirty-years later, he retains the slight, wiry build of a boxer.

The father of 10 children, Rivera said he moved his family from Philadelphia to a safer neighborhood in Minersville.

Twenty-four hours or so after the rescue, Rivera was haunted by the entrapped man’s calls for help.

It’s what drove him to risk his own life to pull the man to safety.

“I’m not going to ignore somebody calling for help,” he said. “It would be on my conscience that I left him there if I didn’t do anything, or at least try.”

Johnathan Paroby contributed to this report.

Source: Berkshire mont

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