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California fire victim reunited with rescuer

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 photo, Thomas Artiaga talks about his rescue of Robert Wells from his fully engulfed home Saturday, during an interview in Fresno, Calif. Wells, who was seen on video being carried to safety by good Samaritan Artiaga as flames exploded, says he just froze as the fire burned his apartment. Wells reunited with rescuer, Thomas Artiaga, two days after the blaze and thanked him for his efforts. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In this Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 photo, Robert Wells, left, and his daughter Roberta Francis, talk about their experience on Saturday when they narrowly escaped their burning home in Fresno, Calif. Robert Wells, who was seen on video being carried to safety by a good Samaritan as flames exploded, says he just froze as the fire burned his apartment. Wells reunited with his rescuer, Thomas Artiaga, two days after the blaze and thanked him for his efforts. (AP Photo/Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)

FRESNO, Calif. >> A central California man carried from his burning home by a good Samaritan in a dramatic rescue caught on video said he froze as the flames exploded and thanked the rescuer as they reunited this week.

Robert Wells, 73, told Thomas Artiaga he was grateful for his efforts as they met again Monday, two days after the blaze in Fresno. In the video taken by a bystander, Artiaga is seen carrying Wells over his shoulder.

“I’m glad you was there,” Wells told Artiaga in the reunion reported by KFSN-TV. “I don’t know where you were coming from or what, but I’m glad.”

Artiaga was not the only person to come to Wells’ aid, The Fresno Bee reported. Anita Meza told the newspaper her husband, Art, ran inside the burning home, grabbed Wells and brought him out to the back patio through a sliding glass door. From there, Artiaga carried him to safety clear of the burning building.

Firefighters say the Saturday morning blaze started in the garage of the Fresno apartment, where Wells lived with his daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson. Flames quickly spread. Wells is frail and relies on oxygen tank to breathe.

Wells’ daughter, Roberta Francis, 51, escaped to the street, where she shouted for anyone to help her father still inside.

Meza, 40, was working on a nearby apartment and heard her cries. Artiaga was in the neighborhood helping an elderly friend with yard work when he saw the commotion.

“It was just an instinct, you know,” Artiaga told the TV station. “Instinct, you see someone and help out people.”

Firefighters arrived soon after the rescue and put out the flames that caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. Wells was taken to a local hospital for treatment and later released.

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