A Renewal by Andersen installation crew in the Chicago area is being hailed as heroes after rescuing a man from a burning home last month.

This fire in suburban Chicago could have killed the homeowner, but a Renewal by Andersen crew working nearby rescued him.

On April 11, the crew — Leo Zavalza, Jose Ramos and Arnie Vargas — was working a job in the Lake Barrington Shores neighborhood near Chicago when they saw smoke pouring from the garage of Mike Walsh and Ellen Murray, whose house is behind the home where they were working. The workers realized it was on fire and someone was inside, so they ran over and began banging on the windows to get their attention.

“We had a window out on the job we were working on, and we’re getting ready to put the new one into place when one of my guys said he smelled smoke and then we saw the flames,” says Zavalza in a blog post on the Renewal by Andersen website. “I just thought—we’ve got to make sure no one is in there.”

It turns out somebody was in there. Homeowner Mike Walsh, who was recovering from shoulder surgery, was alone and getting ready to leave for a physical therapy appointment. After hearing the banging outside, he opened his second-story bedroom door and was almost overwhelmed by flames and smoke.

“It was like being in outer space,” he said. “It was completely dark. There was just no air.”

He shut the door and began trying to find a way out.

“I just went out the window and started screaming for help,” he says.

Two members of the heroic three-man Renewal by Andersen crew.

The window crew heard Walsh’s cries and fetched a ladder. They broke a window on a second-floor bedroom, thinking that was where Walsh was trapped. They then heard his shouts coming from a different bedroom. They eventually saw him on the roof and were able to use the ladder to get him down safely.

“When we were getting him down, I thought, ‘If he waits any longer to try and get out, there would have been flames coming out of that window.’ And sure enough, about 45 seconds…that’s exactly what happened,” says Zavalza.

“They saved my life,” Walsh says.

Responders from the Wauconda Fire District arrived minutes later and extinguished the fire. They took  Walsh to a local hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.

According to the company, the Renewal by Andersen crew then resumed their work, and they even helped that customer by replacing the one window they’d removed and then postponing the rest of the install to prevent smoke from the still-raging fire from entering the home.

Andersen says the crew didn’t seek the spotlight, but an online review and a photo shared on Facebook brought widespread attention to the dramatic rescue.

“It was the case of being in the right place at the right time,” Zavalza says. “I don’t know about being a hero. I think anybody in their right mind would do the same thing, you know? We wanted to help.”

On the Friday following the fire, Walsh returned to what remained of his home and met the men who saved his life. He shook hands and embraced each member of the crew.

“All I can say, is, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I owe you, man,” he said. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here.”

Walsh and his wife Ellen are now raising funds through YouCaring to help pay for extensive home repairs.

Homeowner Mike Walsh was treated for smoke inhalation and released.


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