A Metolius family, awakened and rescued from their burning home early Sunday, said they were thankful to be alive and wanted to thank the stranger who led them to safety.
The fire was reported around 1:30 Sunday morning in a rental home at the corner of 8th Street and Highway 361 in Metolius.
While flames began to engulf the home, five people were asleep inside.
Fortunately, a neighbor who happened to be walking by noticed the fire and became a life-saving hero.
He entered the burning home to alert the family to get out.
The family is grateful that a stranger would do that.
NewsChannel 21 talked with the family and the heroes who helped them.
"Stranger came in my house woke us all up and told us our house was on fire, and got us all out," said Phillip Richesin.
"I just want to thank him -- him and my nephew saved me and my family," Richesin said, fighting back the tears.
The rescuer said he heard no smoke alarms. Olsen said Monday the owner of the home said there were three smoke alarms in it, but it's not known if they had been maintained.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, he said.
The pain was still there for Richesin, hours after his home burned to the ground.
"My daughter lost her dog and her seven puppies in the fire," Richesin said, his voice choked with emotion.
Richesin, along with his wife Linda, his daughter, her boyfriend and a family friend were all inside sleeping when the stranger awakened them and told them that their house was on fire.
"If he hadn't come rushing in my door -- good thing I hadn't locked the door, 'cause usually I lock the door," Richesin said. "And if he hadn't been there, we wouldn't be here today."
Richesin and his family have Metolius resident Travis Howell to thank.
"The flames were in front of me as I entered the house," Howell said. "They were on the back side of the house, and they were already starting to engulf the porch."
Howell, who lives nearby, said he was returning home with his wife, Tina, when they noticed the flames.
"We ran around the house there," Howell said. "While she dialed 911, I walked in the door there, and the flames were coming up, so we asked that everybody leave fast."
The home had no working smoke detectors, so indeed, Howell was their lifesaver.
"I'm a maintenance guy at the hospital -- that is what our deal is," Howell said. "We conduct fire drills all the time, and their No. 1 thing is getting people to safety."
"Who knows what would have happened if it wasn't for Travis?" said Harley Picard, Richesin's nephew. "I might not still even have my aunt and uncle and my cousins."
Picard helped Howell rescue the family.
"Everybody was in the process of coming out, so I made sure the rest of them got out okay, got them away from the house, away from the smoke," Picard said.
Picard said it didn't take long for the house to go up, as fast as the wind was blowing.
"It only took 20 minutes from the time I showed up to the time we made sure everybody was okay and out, before the whole house was engulfed in flames," Picard said.
Firefighters say strong winds fanned the flames and challenged their work. Crews were on scene for over seven hours.
Firefighters and family gathered at the scene again later Sunday, salvaging through items, many of which were not even recognizable.
Five cars were damaged and the total loss is nearly $80,000, said Tom Jaca, assistant chief with Jefferson County Fire District No. 1.
Firefighters say the family is blessed to have had Howell notify them, but he said he was just doing what neighbors do.
"They would have done it for us, too," Howell said. "It's a neighborhood deal."
"I'm grateful for my family being alive," Richesin said. "And I'm grateful for the two persons that saved us."
The Red Cross came to assist the family, which is staying with friends.
If you would like to help the family, you can donate to a fund that has been started, at any Mid Oregon Credit Union under the name "Linda Richesin."
You can also contact some of the family members directly if you have any clothes, blankets or items they might need. The numbers are 541-279-9276 for Casey Richesin and 541-546-6424 for Jess Richesin.