6 injured in Gwinnett County personal care home fire

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —

Firefighters are crediting a Rockdale County Sheriff's deputy with saving the lives of six elderly Alzheimer's patients from their burning senior care home in Loganville Thursday night.  Friday afternoon, Deputy Tim Kutsch won his department's highest lifesaving award for his actions.

"I just thought I was doing my job," said Kutsch.  "I've always been the kind of person to help people or try to help people."

According to Walton County firefighters, Kutsch was driving home from work along Highway 20 when he spotted flames and smoke shooting out from the Choice Care Senior Living Facility, a home for six elderly Alzheimer's patients and their caregiver.  Even though he was out of his jurisdiction, Kutsch radioed for help then jumped out of his patrol car to see what he could do.

"A lady met me out in the front as soon as I jumped out of the car," said Kutsch.  "She said, 'there's people inside.' So we go running to the house.  I went to the first window, and I broke it out.  I saw there was a lady at the base of the window.  I was yelling to her.  She was unconscious.”

Kutsch said the room was full of blinding smoke.

"I mean smoke was just rolling out of the entire house," Kutsch said. "I'm assuming that's why she was passed out, because of the smoke.  I literally couldn't see two feet into the room."

Kutsch said another man came up and helped him get hold of the woman's arms.  Then he lifted her out.

"I pulled her out and put her in the grass," said Kutsch.  "I cut my arm, and I was bleeding bad.  I really couldn't do much after that. I ran to my car, got a rag, wrapped up my arm and went back.  By that time everybody else was coming out."

Firefighters arrived at the same time and made entry into the burning house to make sure everyone else got out.  All six patients were taken to area hospitals.  Many remain in ICU but are expected to survive.  Firefighters said Kutcsh’s quick call to dispatch alerted them quickly enough that they could get to the scene and rescue the other patients.

Friday afternoon, Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett awarded Kutsch the lifesaving commendation, one of the highest awards the sheriff's office can bestow.

"That's a huge honor," said Kutsch after the ceremony.  "That's pretty cool."

Federal, state and local investigators are still trying to determine what started the blaze.