By David Zambrano
Early Sunday morning a fire engulfed the home of North Ranch resident Kerwin Hieb. Sometime between 3:30 and 4 a.m. neighbors Judy Grunwald and Candice Webber were awakened by “popping noises and then the sound of a smoke detector beeping,” according to Grunwald. As they both went outside, they saw flames in Hieb’s nearby home. Across the street from Hieb, 85-year-old Dean Reynolds was also awakened by noise. “I heard what sounded like gunfire so I got up to look. As I looked across the street, I saw flames coming out of the back of a singlewide trailer,” Reynolds said. By this time Congress Fire District received the first of two calls from Grunwald. According to Reynolds, he ran out of the house and to the back door of Hieb’s house. The door was standing open so, Reynolds said he ran inside the trailer and saw Hieb lying on the bed. Reynolds told Hieb, “C’mon let’s get out of here before we burn up! I don’t want to get burnt up,” Reynolds remembered.
“I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to his feet and helped him across the street and sat him on my steps.”
Congress Fire Cpt. Jake Moder and firefighter/EMT J.T. Basham were the first responders followed by Chief Virgil Suitor. Moder said “We initiated a defensive operation, that’s when fire conditions are unsafe for firefighters to enter and when the fire is beyond the control of hand lines.” Other Congress firefighters Roger Aguilar and Bill Taylor arrived to assist in the efforts. Suitor called for support from the Wickenburg Fire Department which responded with an engine crew and fire chief.
“Our focus was to keep the fire from getting on any other structures,” Moder said. “The other issue was the live ammunition that was kept in the ottoman. They were popping continuously.” By 7:30 a.m. the fire had been put out. Lifeline Ambulance out of Wickenburg had also arrived to treat Hieb who suffered minor burns on his arm and face. Hieb declined to go to the hospital. Moder said the fire started at the back of the house, but the cause was not determined.
Hieb lost all the possessions in his home, including his two cats. One of Hieb’s neighbors, Ray Brown, offered Hieb to stay in his RV, which was parked next to Hieb’s home. “I’ll let him stay in it as long as he needs to. I know insurance companies can take a while,” said Brown. Another neighbor, retired firefighter John Moore, who had never met Hieb until Monday, came by to offer clothes and kitchen supplies. “This is what it’s about…neighbors helping neighbors,” Moore said. Forrest Fields who also lives in North Ranch is a member of The Place church in Wickenburg. Pastor Greg Hintz said, “Forrest came in that morning and told us the need. We are committed to helping in any way we can.”
Reynolds said, “I feel for him, he lost everything.” When asked about his selfless effort to save Hieb, Reynolds replied, “I’m not a hero, I’d do it for anybody. He would’ve died in there. But I wasn’t worried, the Lord is watching out for me.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Hieb. “I’ve lost everything. Thank God for my neighbors.”