LYNN (CBS) — Whether it’s Veterans Day or the day after the Marine Corps birthday, it evidently helps to have a Marine veteran for a next door neighbor in a life or death situation.
Fred Lopez of Lynn said his wife Roxana heard a loud bang, woke him up about 3:30 a.m. and he saw a rear porch of the three-decker next door on Hamilton Ave. engulfed in flames. So he said he ran downstairs, saw a Lynn police officer and told him they had to break in and get people out.
“He went to second floor and I went to the third and everybody came out safely thank God,” said Lopez. “Put it this way. I had my pants in one hand and I’m in underwear knocking the door down so you don’t really have time to think. All you want to do is react and try to make sure that everybody comes out safely.
The three-decker’s owner, Quang Lam, his wife Mei and daughter Nancy escaped from the third floor. His four tenants on the second got out. The first floor was vacant.
He said he just paid it off two months ago but could not get insurance until he earned enough money working for a North Shore tech firm to fix the roof.
Thursday was his birthday.
“My birthday. Bad birthday. Thank God nobody hurt,” said Quang who came to the U.S. from Viet Nam in 1980.
Fred Lopez, who has a sticker on his front porch that reads, “This property protected by a U.S. Marine,” observed the Marine Corps’ birthday yesterday. “I know about fire watches, yes I do…my wife was the fire watch this time. She woke me up and I was able to react, probably thanks to the training I had in the Marines and I’m very proud for that,” he said.
The construction contractor Fred works for said he’ll help Quang rebuild.
“We’re going to do the best we can to help him get things back to normal with his house…giving a break with the price of the house and the work that needs to be done,” said Bill Elliott who is also a neighbor.
“A few good men…just like you don’t leave anyone behind, we make sure that there was no one in the house,” remarked Lopez who said he served at Camp Lejeune between 1980 and 1986.
Lopez said the police did the right thing by making sure everyone was safely out of the house.
Three officers were treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire is believed to have been accidental. Quang said he thinks one of his tenants may have been smoking on the rear porch.