A Del Norte County sheriff’s deputy is being hailed as a hero after he went into a burning building to help people escape.
Sheriff Erik Apperson said Deputy Kenny Fahndrich responded to a 911 call of a residential fire in progress. When he arrived, he could see people inside the building that was already on fire.
Fahndrich jumped out of his vehicle and ran into the building, where he found two people near the front door. One occupant left willingly, but a woman inside was refusing to leave until she could find her dog.
At Fahndrich’s urging, the woman did leave, and the dog was also able to escape.
By that time, the fire had spread to another nearby residence and was also threatening vehicles in the area. While waiting for other first responders to arrive, Fahndrich heard screaming from behind the fire.
He immediately ran back into the blaze and located a teenager having a seizure near the burning buildings. Fahndrich quickly determined it was too dangerous to leave the teen where he was. With the help of others, Fahndrich made sure the teen was safely carried away from the blaze.
Apperson said despite the fire and the danger, Fahndrich remained calm throughout the fire.
“The whole world around him was literally on fire and he was communicating perfectly. He was so calm,” 911 Dispatcher Rebecca Valentin said.
Apperson said Fahndrich made the department proud with his selfless, quick action. The sheriff said he only learned of Fahndrich’s actions when he received a call from Del Norte County Supervisor Darin Short.
“I am incredibly proud of how Deputy Fahnrich handled himself, but I am not surprised,” Apperson said. “He's just wired that way. He's the sort of guy that's going to go in first and get the job done, even when his own well-being is at risk. He may be a new deputy, but he's also a veteran. Today, exemplified one his personal core values and a tenet of the DNSO, which is service above self. He deserves to be recognized and he will be. It means a lot that Supervisor Short took the time and made the effort to reach out. Deputy Fahndrich wouldn't have brought this to my attention otherwise. He'd just say it was another day of doing what he was put here to do.”
The fires caused extensive damage to at least two homes in the Elk Valley area.