Valley Center High student pulls woman out of house fire

Leo Andrade, 16, saw the smoke coming from the house of his next-door neighbor.

That's all it took.

The Valley Center High School student jumped into action about 8 p.m. Monday and found a way to get the 53-year-old woman out of her burning house in the 5700 block of North Meridian.

Was he scared?

"Not really," he said Tuesday. "If I was scared, I wouldn't have gone in. I just went in without a second thought."

The woman remains in the hospital in critical condition with burns and smoke inhalation, but the teen's quick reaction probably saved her life.

"I hate to speculate," Wichita Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said, "but I know her injuries could have been a lot more severe if she had to wait for us to get in there to pull her out."

Andrade was quick to say he had help. His dad, a friend of his dad and an anonymous passer-by were also there. But the teen was first to rush in to assist the woman.

"I saw smoke coming out of a window so I broke it open," he said. "But we didn't hear anybody."

Andrade raced around to a sliding back door, opened it and called the woman's name.

"I'm here," she responded.

So Andrade ran in and was hit by a wall of thick smoke. But he managed to find the woman and reassured her by saying, "Everything's going to be OK."

He then opened the front door to try to clear out some of the smoke. He was helping get the woman outside when someone else came to his assistance.

"I'm not sure who it was," Andrade said. "It was pitch black."

He doesn't think of himself as a hero.

"I'm just me," Andrade said.

He's a teen who likes boxing, goes to school, works 20 hours a week at the Sonic in Valley Center and wants to join the Marines someday.

"The guy who stopped his truck to help was a hero," Andrade said. "He doesn't even live around here. My little brother is a hero; he's so kind."

Nonetheless, Bevis said he will nominate Andrade for an award from the fire department.

"He did an outstanding job," Bevis said.

Damage to the home and contents was estimated at $65,000 Bevis said.

Shortly after the woman was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, Andrade convinced his mom to take him to a store to get some flowers and then to the hospital so he could give them to the woman.

"But the nurses wouldn't let me see her," Andrade said. "I told them to give her the flowers. I hope they did."