The family of a 78-year-old woman who was rescued from the balcony of her burning Glendale home on Tuesday got a chance to meet and thank the police officers who saved her life.
The Glendale Police Department officers were first on the scene early Monday as flames engulfed the woman's home in the 2000 block of Dublin Drive.
The victim's son, Vago Chobanyan, was out of town and watched the massive fire on television, horrified.
“I cannot believe that my mom was able to get out safely with the help and heroic efforts of the officers," he said at a news conference.
With fire and smoke pouring out of windows and doors, the three officers saw the woman trapped on a balcony, they explained. The victim, Mrs. Chobanyan, whose first name her family didn’t want to give out, was too afraid to come over the rail to safety.
“She was petrified,” Officer Jimmy Mercado said. “There was fire behind her. The house was fully engulfed.”
Mercado climbed up the side of the building and was hanging from the balcony when he grabbed the fire-heated railing.
“I jumped and somehow I reached the railing and it was hot, but I was really determined,” Mercado said, adding that other Glendale officers would have done the same thing.
Two other officers — Christopher Clay and Matthew Stafford — worked on the ground to set up a neighbor’s ladder. Sgt. Ben Bateman arrived and encouraged the woman to jump from the balcony.
“She didn’t want to move,” said Mercado, who gestured with a hand bandaged due to second-degree burns.
Up on the balcony, he handed the woman over the railing to Clay, who carried her down the ladder.
Clay said he didn’t remember exactly how he managed it, just that he went down one step at a time with the victim on one arm and his other hand on the rungs.
Stafford picked up the victim, running with her in front of the burning home and across the street to get away from the fire.
Firefighters arrived and worked to put out the flames. The house was gutted.
“It was a lot of smoke and really hot. … The whole time we were there, you could hear glass windows exploding out,” Clay said. “It’s surprising how loud a fire actually is.”
Chobanyan was brought to safety and taken to a hospital, where she was treated for smoke inhalation, her son-in-law Robert Karayan said. The family’s dog Hans died in the fire.
“This could have been a completely different story today. We’d like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” Karayan said. “They are truly professionals and heroes in our hearts.”
Vago Chobanyan said his mother wants to make dinner for the officers.
Glendale Fire Department Chief Greg Fish praised the officers, calling them “real heroes.”
“They don’t train with personal protective equipment, with ladders, with fire, so this is a foreign environment for them,” Fish said. “Yet, they came with everything. … That’s how we treat people in the city of Glendale.”
Had the victim been on the balcony even a minute longer, she would have died, Fish said.