Heroes emerge after devastating Tampa apartment fire

- A fire in the Puritan Place Apartments in Tampa trapped a 79-year-old woman inside her home Wednesday afternoon, but thanks to the quick actions of neighbors, she was able to make it out unharmed.

Daniel Ortega and Danny Sanchez, two maintenance workers who also live in the complex, said they were part of an eight-person team to help saved the woman.

"I kept fumbling with my keys to the shop and kept telling myself, 'don't panic,'" recalled Ortega, who raced to an equipment building to grab fire extinguishers.

He described how he and several others tried to use the extinguishers to battle flames, which quickly engulfed the only stairway and escape route, from the woman's apartment.

"We started to hear glass windows popping and we all kind of got scared because glass was falling down and the vinyl siding was melting," recalled Ortega.

Ortega said he and others were forced to retreat from the fire as the woman went back inside her apartment. Sanchez said he ran to the back side of the building where he and a tree service worker climbed up to the woman's balcony. The two picked her up and gently lowered her to a group of neighbors who'd gathered below.

"Literally, there were just so many people there, and when you're in a panic mode like that, you're just extra strong. Everybody grabbed her," said Ortega.

Ortega said he was contemplating taking a personal day that morning before deciding otherwise.

"You're supposed to be where you are at the right given time," he reflected.

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