LAKE FOREST, Calif. – A half-dozen off-duty Marines who raced through a burning motel on Sunday warning sleeping guests that it was on fire were hailed as lifesaving heroes.
Everyone escaped the Americas Best Value Inn motel, including one elderly man who required oxygen after he was carried to safety by one of the Marines. The cause of the fire, which ignited shortly before 8 a.m., was under investigation.
Marine Pvt. Colton Oliver said he and two colleagues were walking along a second-floor landing about 8 a.m. when they saw flames and smoke. They rousted their fellow Marines and all six began knocking on doors and windows of rooms, urging people to leave.
"Everybody was out by the time the firefighters got here," Oliver said. "It's what we're trained to do."
Amy Amadito-Phelps said she and her husband and 14-month-old son were sleeping in a room near the flames when they were awakened. She said the Marines saved their lives.
"We were right next to a room completely on fire and we couldn't smell smoke," said Amadito-Phelps. "No fire alarms were going off. The only thing we heard was Marines banging on our windows and telling us to get out."
The Camp Pendleton-based Marines, who were on leave, were also staying at the motel.
"I'd call them absolute heroes," said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Pardi.
A pair of two-story, wood-framed motel buildings were destroyed and a third structure was damaged, said Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion. One firefighter was treated for heat exhuastion.