Family praises rescuer as arson investigators probe fire

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Family praises rescuer as arson investigators probe fire

By Craig Smith. CREATED Jun 10, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Three fires, in the same neighborhood, in less than a half hour. Arson investigators say that's too much to be coincidence.
KGUN9 talked with a victim---and a woman who rushed into a burning house to save a life.
The fires gutted four mobile homes and turned years of living to ashes.  Steve La Rue can hardly bear to think about what the fire burned away.

He choked up as he said, "Living there for sixteen years....I'm sorry.."
With his family at his side ... He's grateful for neighbors like Paula Wilhelm who rushed into danger when they could have turned away.

Wilhelm says, "I didn't think twice, just ran right into the house."
Steve La Rue told her his wife Joan was in the house---bedridden---unable to escape on her own. 
Paula has medical training but could tell she needed more help to get Joan to safety.
She says four or five people came up with the courage to run into the burning trailer to rescue Joan.
We just had to ask: what ran through her mind when she finally had a moment to think.

"All I could think was, I have a little one of my own and a husband and a family and...but I would expect someone to do the same for me and my family."

Steve's daughter Beth Vogann says, "I am so grateful for those people.  There was five people that helped carry Mom out."

Zane Vogann says, "I think the hardest part of all of it was watching my mom sit in the back of an ambulance in tears and her saying, I have nothing, and I have nowhere to go. Well, she's got us so..." 
The Red Cross has helped replace medication and clothes lost in the fire, now while this family rebuilds, investigators work to learn exactly how and why these fires started.

Steve LaRue told us something especially frightening.  He says someone locked one of their doors from the outside as if to trap them in.
Sheriff's arson investigators say that is something they are checking out.

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

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Craig enjoys using innovative writing and visuals to make difficult stories easier to understand. As a newsroom manager at KGUN 9, Craig was part of the team that won three best newscast awards from Arizona Associated Press