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Rancho Palos Verdes couple called 911, fled from smoke in home where firefighter fatally injured – Daily News

The smoke alarms went off around 2 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, stirring Tim Racisz awake inside his home on Tarapaca Road in Rancho Palos Verdes.

His wife, Idelle, was still awake but startled by the beeping.

Then they noticed smoke.

“The smoke started to increase, and we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from,” Tim Racisz, 62, said in a phone interview on Friday, Jan. 7. “So we called 911, found the dog, and got out of the house.”

Tim and Idelle Racisz watched from their driveway, and later from across the street, as waves of Los Angeles County firefighters responded and went into the home, he said. He couldn’t recall specifically how many went inside.

One of those firefighters, 47-year-old Jonathan Flagler, was overcome with smoke and fire while inside and issued a Mayday alert, Los Angeles County interim Fire Chief Anthony Marrone told reporters Thursday, hours after the blaze.

Flagler was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where doctors worked valiantly to try to save him, but he died, Marrone said. First responders escorted the firefighter’s body to the county coroner’s office in East Los Angeles, Thursday afternoon.

Tim Racisz said the home has been in his family since 1960, and while losing it is tragic for his family, “it’s even more tragic for the family of the firefighter who was lost. We can’t even comprehend that. That’s beyond the scope of our comprehension right now.”

The couple has lived in the home since 2009, he said, adding that the house was totaled.

A detached garage with contents remained intact, he said.

The couple was staying at a neighbor’s house while they wait to deal with the insurance company before coming up with a more permanent solution, Tim Racisz said.

“In the end, we’re going to be fine,” he said. “It will take a long time, but it will be forever for the firefighter’s family.”

Fire investigators believe the fire was in the attic, Marrone said, but the exact cause was under investigation. An aerial photo showed extensive damage to the back of the home, where some of the roof had burned off exposing the wooden frame underneath.

Scores of officials and other police and fire agencies offered their condolences to Flagler’s family and the Department through statements and social media Thursday.

“This incident is a sobering reminder of the real dangers our members face each and every day as we fight to keep our communities safe,” said Firefighters Local 1014, a union that represents Los Angeles County firefighters.

Flagler began his firefighting career with Vernon in 2002. In 2020, that city’s Fire Department was absorbed into the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He is survived by his wife and 15- and 13-year-old sons, the union said.

The orgin and cause of the fire had not been determined yet, said Isaac Rivera, a spokesman for the Fire Department.

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