Narrow escape – Man saves self by jumping out window of burning home
A Nevada County man clad only in underwear had to fling himself out a window of his flaming house Friday morning to save his life.
Paul Lausche, 49, escaped with burns on his hands about 4:30 a.m., according to the county Red Cross. But he lost virtually everything he owned and his home on the 13500 block of Hidden Valley Road, said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Chief Tim Fike.
“I don’t know what woke me up,” Lausche said. “Maybe I heard the popping.”
Lausche said he is legally blind and disabled from an accident, so he normally sleeps until 9 a.m. to ensure there is light in the house.
“I woke up and saw light under the bedroom door,” Lausche said. “I thought, ‘you’d better feel the door first.’ It was hot and I don’t know why it wasn’t smoking.”
Touching the door burned Lausche, so he made his way to the window, where he said he more fell out than jumped. Fike said those actions probably saved Lausche, who then made his way to a neighbor’s home and called the fire department.
Lausche said he had no idea how the blaze began, but Fike said fire investigators think it was from cigarette material dropped into a living-room chair.
“(It) smoldered for quite some time,” Fike said.
Lausche was the sole occupant of the approximately 1,200-square-foot home in the area off of McCourtney Road near South Ponderosa Way that is dotted with houses on acreage, Fike said.
Consolidated firefighters could not save the home but did manage to control flames that had spread onto Lausche’s property, Fike said. A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crew cut a fire line around the blaze, which fire officials said had a lot of potential to spread into a steep slope area filled with brush.
“If that had been in the afternoon, we would have had major spot (fire) problems,” Fike said. High morning humidity and calm winds “made a huge difference.”
Ned Russell of the Western Nevada County Chapter of the American Red Cross said the agency was looking for a place for Lausche to stay late Friday afternoon.
HOW TO HELP
To help Paul Lausche, whose home was destroyed by fire Friday morning, call the county Red Cross at 272-3265. Callers are asked to leave a message if no one answers. You can also send extra large clothing in his name to the Western Nevada County Chapter of the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 250, Grass Valley, CA 95945. Lausche is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds.
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