Veterans displaced after fire destroys care home

Fire destroys East Palo Alto board and care home Monday, February 14, 2011.

February 14, 2011 10:51:11 PM PST
Fire forced some veterans to jump out of a burning building in East Palo Alto. Their board and care home caught fire and one man was trapped, then rescued.

The two-alarm fire started in the kitchen and the people living inside said it spread fast. Some of the residents were upstairs when they heard the smoke detectors go off.

"Went back to my room, turned around, went to go down the stairwell and the stairwell was nothing but black smoke. I couldn't get down the stairwell," said resident Rick Porupsky.

There were 14 people were living in the building on Bay Road in East Palo Alto. It was a transitional housing facility for homeless military veterans. There were 44 firefighters that were called to fight the fire. The fire chief said this was a tough one to put out largely because of the layout of the building.

"We had probably a small home at one time. Just like the Winchester Mystery House it's gotten bigger over time so the firefighters actually had a very difficult time finding all the fire in all the different rooms and it led to an extended attack," said Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

Fortunately, everyone got out alive. Although for Rick Porupsky, it was a close call. He has broken bones in his foot making it hard for him to get around. But Herman Alexander, another resident of the building, helped him escape the flames using a ladder brought to them by kids in the neighborhood.

"Herman came up the ladder and walked me down the ladder one step at a time because I was scared to death. The last thing I wanted in the world was to burn alive, that's just? I had a friend when I was a teenager that was burned alive," said Porupsky.

These military veterans say looking out for one another is something they learned during their years in service and that you don't leave anyone behind.

"If you don't like him, then you still have to help him. You got to help them. You don't leave the bodies dead or alive. You either bring the bodies back or bring them alive back," said Alexander.

All 14 veterans have a place to stay. They were taken to the VA grounds in Menlo Park.

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