April 21, 2019 11:17 PM
A 74 year old St. Paul man is in a lot of pain in the burn unit at Regions Hospital.
But, Mike Schultz, known as "Sarge", is recovering and alive, thanks to two guys who had the guts to walk through fire for him.
Sarge was home Saturday afternoon when an explosion rocked the corner of West Baker Street and Hall Avenue. Then his home for 30-plus years burst into flames. Roger Hodge lives next door, "the whole house blew, the whole back of the house blew off."
Two other neighbors who live across the street happened to be outside at the time. Knowing that Sarge lived alone with his cat and hadn't been the same since suffering a stroke, they bolted to his place. Paul Warner and Israel Melendez faced their fears and the flames, "I run to his house, I looked in the window and I see Mike and I see fire," replied Melendez.
The pair dared to go in and get Sarge because there's no way he could get himself out. They tried, but failed, to kick down the front door. They successfully shattered a window and crawled through, despite the searing flames, smoke and heat all around them. Plus, they had no idea how long the house would hold up. The message out to firefighters on scanner traffic said, "the wall is bowed out, it could potentially collapse, all staff get out of the collapse zone."
Paul Warner described Sarge's condition when they found him on the first floor, "he was conscious but in shock, he'd just been through a massive explosion, skin was coming off his hands and head, he had 3rd degree burns already, he was a mess."
Warner and Melendez carried Sarge outside as more help and first responders arrived.
Sarge survived because, to two men, they were saving more than a neighbor, they saved a friend, "there's no thought, I'd do it again, that's the way it is," replied Warner.
Some neighbors wonder if a gas leak set off the explosion. Sarge recently had new appliances installed. A spokesman for the St. Paul Fire Department said investigators are looking at every possibility.
Over the weekend, crews were seen marking gas lines surrounding the area of the fire as part of the ongoing probe. It didn't appear any other surrounding structures were unsafe.
Seventy-four-year-old Mike Schultz is in fair condition. Sunday, friend said Sarge asked about his cat. At the moment, neighbors don't know if the cat named Tootsie survived or is missing.
KSTP & Beth McDonough
Updated: April 21, 2019 11:17 PM
Created: April 20, 2019 03:16 PM
Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company