Man saved from fiery motel room
April 26, 2005
Aseem Indora heard something explode. Tony Gutierrez, wearing flip flops, received a foot burn. Andrew Scheufele pulled the burning man off the bed.
Courage and quick thinking by a group saved Rainer Plischke’s life early Thursday morning, as the man inside flame-filled Room 138 at Value Inn suffered major burns to his face and hands and had to be flown to UC Davis Medical Center.
Gutierrez, a bartender at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon who was off work and drinking a bottled Coors Light, was notified of the fire by people near a window playing pool at the bar.
A 911 call was made and Gutierrez and several others ran across Lake Tahoe Boulevard a few minutes past 1 a.m. The pool players broke the room’s lone window with their shoulders, he said.
“There was a lot of smoke and commotion,” Gutierrez said. “We see there is a guy sitting on the bed and he is surrounded by flames.”
Scheufele, a cook at Fat City Food Company having a drink at the bar, ran inside the small room to pull Plischke off the bed by his shoulders after the room was hit by fire extinguishers.
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A blister burn on his left hand made Scheufele believe he grabbed searing metal on Plischke’s clothes.
“The adrenaline just hit me,” Scheufele said. “Nobody was going in to get him, so somebody had to do it.”
Indora, a manager at Value Inn, said Plischke was “burning like a steak on a barbecue.”
Indora and fellow manager Steven Shelley were the first on scene. Indora, after hearing what he thought was a gunshot, also notified 911 and called Shelley’s room to get help.
Neighbor Jennifer de Braga said Plischke lived at the inn for about eight months.
“I woke up to breaking glass and everybody screaming,” de Braga said.
After Scheufele heaved Plischke off the bed, Gutierrez helped him pull the big man out of the room and beat the flames off his jacket and skin.
Brendan Wagner, Gutierrez’s roommate and fellow Whiskey Dick’s employee, went inside to look for others but found no one.
“It was hot. It was definitely hot and really smoky,” Gutierrez said.
Plischke was listed in fair condition on Tuesday at UC Davis.
Leona Allen, communications coordinator for police and fire dispatch, checked records and found officers arrived three minutes after the 911 call was received at 1:03 a.m. to make sure Plischke was alive and breathing and protect the scene.
“They gave aid immediately, according to our records,” she said.
South Lake Tahoe firefighters finished off the fire while Plischke was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital to begin his flight to UC Davis.
Damage was contained to Plischke’s room. Shelley estimated the repairs between $2,000 to $3,000 but said it could have been worse.
“If we didn’t have the help we did, the roof would have caught on fire and spread to the other room,” he said.
Afterward, Scheufele, Gutierrez and Wagner went back to the saloon to take some shots – a combination of Grand Marnier and Crown Royal named “Handsome.”
“I reeked. I was sitting at the bar saying everything smells like smoke,” Scheufele said.
– E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com