North Fulton County

Landscapers carry 90-year-old woman out of burning home in Alpharetta

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — When a house in Alpharetta caught fire, two landscapers working across the street rushed over to carry a 90-year-old woman to safety.

Israel Franqui of JTL Landscaping was at work Sept. 25 when he saw smoke billowing from a garage along Centennial Drive in the Dunmoor subdivision.

At first he thought somebody might have been cooking out, but the cloud of smoke kept growing bigger.

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“That’s what caught my attention – the smoke got thicker, and I thought that doesn’t look right,” Franqui said. “I don’t think it’s a barbecue, it’s something else.”

That’s when he and his partner, Luis Reyes, ran across the street to ring the doorbell. Four people were inside, including Marie Fithian, who had been napping in her bedroom right above the garage.

“I smelled what smelled like burning plastic, and that’s the only reason I got out of bed, just to see if I was smelling it on my own or anyone else was smelling it,” she said.

She ran downstairs.

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The landscapers and a neighbor, who called 911, were at the door. Her parents and 90-year-old grandmother had to get outside, but her grandmother couldn’t escape on her own. That’s when the landscapers stepped in to carry her out.

“At first we tried to put her on our backs, but she was too heavy,” Franqui said. “Me and Luis just grabbed her by both arms – one on each arm – and kind of held her.”

They led her across the street to safety in a neighbor’s yard. At this point, flames were shooting out the window and firefighters had arrived. Everyone in the house made it out safely.

“We all pitched in and helped the people that were here and were in trouble,” Franqui said.

While the family is grateful nobody was hurt, Fithian said it’s heartbreaking to see the house her family has lived in for 30 years reduced to rubble.

“The memories and my childhood – this is my childhood – and I watched my room just crumble to the floor,” she said.

Firefighters have not determined the exact cause of the fire, but say it started in the garage, possibly as a car fire. For now, the family is renting a home nearby and plans to rebuild.

Fithian said the fire has made her family stronger.

“We have been able to bond more than we have been in a long time,” she said.

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