East Los Angeles

Off-Duty Firefighter on Way to Rams Game Saves Woman and Dog From House Fire

Pasadena Fire Capt. William Basulto was on his way to the NFC Championship game Sunday in Inglewood with his son and father when a dramatic chain of events unfolded in his East Los Angeles neighborhood.

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An off-duty fire captain was just about to leave home for the highly anticipated Rams NFC Championship game Sunday morning with his father and son when they noticed smoke rising above their East Los Angeles neighborhood.

Pasadena Fire Capt. William Basulto had taken he day off work so three generations of his family could tailgate and watch the showdown against the 49ers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. They were loading their vehicle for a trip to Inglewood's SoFi Stadium when they noticed the smoke in the 3800 block fo Dozier Street in East Los Angeles. 

And, it appeared to be getting heavier at an alarming rate.

“I said, ‘That’s a house fire, Dad. Let me go check it out,’” Basulto said. 

Pasadena Fire Capt. William Basulto (right) is pictured at the scene of a fire Sunday Jan. 30, 2022 in East LA.
Pasadena Fire Department
Pasadena Fire Capt. William Basulto (right) is pictured at the scene of a fire Sunday Jan. 30, 2022 in East LA.

He drove toward the smoke and found a detached two-story unit on fire. Basulto said the family had put out about half the fire before he arrived, but the second story was engulfed in flames, which were shooting out the front door and window. 

Basulto was told a woman in her 50s was trapped on the upper floor as it was filling with smoke.

The right man for the rescue had arrived. He just need the right tools. 

“It was very interesting the way it all came about,” he said. “This family got me all of the tools and everything I needed.”

That included garden hoses, something to knock down the front door and a ladder to reach the victim on the second floor. The ladder had hooks that he was able to place over the windowsill to secure it. 

The victim, identified as Blanca Gonzalez, was able to swing a leg out the window and onto the ladder with Basulto’s help.

“She handed me her dog first, I handed it down, then I was able to… take her out,” Basulto said. 

Gonzalez’s daughter met Basulto back at the heavily damaged house Monday morning. Samantha Gonzalez said several family members live in the home in which she grew up. 

“When you live in a single household, and it’s just you and a parent, you want to take care of them,” said Samantha Gonzalez. “When you’re not there in that moment, you can’t help but to blame yourself.

"Since you were able to be there for her, for the rest of my life I’m going to be grateful."

After helping Blanca Gonzalez out of the house, Basulto heard fire truck sirens and cleared a path for firefighters before helping them roll out hose lines. Dressed in Rams gear, he also gave an extremely detailed situation report to a surprised fire captain.

“He’s like, ‘Who are you?’ Rams t-shirt and jeans, custom Rams Nikes that I made for myself,” Basulto said. 

With his unexpected job done, Basulto went back home, finished packing and headed to the game. Despite heavy traffic, they made it in time for kickoff. 

Fire Capt. William Baulto (center) pictured with his father and son Sunday Jan. 30, 2022 outside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

Two of the family’s three dogs died in the house fire. Blanca Gonzalez remained hospitalized Monday. 

“She’s alive because of this amazing man,” Samantha Gonzalez said. “She’s my entire world.”

Samantha Gonzalez said she wasn’t aware a firefighter lived in the neighborhood until the Sunday’s circumstances brought them together. 

“I’m so glad that the community has such amazing people to offer their services,” she said. “That’s what I love about East Los Angeles. We have such an amazing community here.”

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