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Teen honored for pulling man from fire at St. Paul duplex

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St. Paul firefighters honored a teenager who helped rescue two brothers from a burning duplex last month.

Ricardo Martinez, 16, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award – the St. Paul fire department's highest civilian honor – for his actions on July 21.

Martinez was playing music with a few friends when he saw flames shooting out the back of the duplex across the street in the early morning hours that day. Without thinking twice, he sprinted barefoot across the street, and used a ladder to climb to the roof.

He took off his shirt and tied it over his face to protect him from the smoke as he pulled 65-year-old Louis Stauch to safety. He then tried to rescue Louis' brother Richard Stauch, 67. Firefighters found Richard Stauch unconscious on the floor and safely got him out. The brothers, who lived on the second floor of the duplex, were transported to Regions Hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.

“I heard people inside, so my first instinct was to see if I could help anyone,” Martinez told the Pioneer Press following the rescue. He added: “I’m just glad I did what I did. What would’ve happened if I didn’t do anything?”

St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler also awarded letters of Commendation to Joshua Hoover, Dale Tilleskjor and Jackie Venable for their attempts to rescue the victims, KSTP says. Members of Engine Company 10, who were first to arrive on the scene, also received the Unit Commendation Award, the news station notes.

The girlfriend of the man who owns the duplex is charged with first-degree arson in connection with the fire. Deanna Lee Thielbar, 46, who lived with Dennis Johnson in the lower unit of the duplex, is accused of starting the fire after an apparent domestic dispute.

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