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‘I didn’t even think twice’ Passerby stops to rescue family from house fire

Ryan Pasborg, pictured with his son, said he didn’t think twice about bursting through the door of a burning house last week. Courtesy photo.

By Hannah Romero
Green River Star
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

GREEN RIVER — “Who the heck is burning their trash at 4:00 in the morning?”

Ryan Pasborg muttered this question to himself when he first saw the flames.

Pasborg was driving along Highway 374 near Jamestown on his way to work Tuesday, Feb. 1. He was running a little late. It had been a late night, and he’d let himself sleep in more than usual – getting up closer to 3:50 a.m. instead of his usual 3:15 since he didn’t have to drop his daughter off with the babysitter that day.

Looking at the smoke and flames as he drove, Pasborg realized a garbage fire didn’t make sense. Then the reality hit him. He was looking at a house.

“The truck went from probably about 45 to 75,” Pasborg said, remembering racing into the driveway where a house was engulfed in flames and emergency responders were nowhere in sight.

As he got out of his truck, Pasborg saw three young children coming out of the garage door. He quickly asked them if anyone else was in the house. The children answered they couldn’t find their mom or little brother.

For a brief moment, Pasborg was awestruck by the situation, trying to process the fact he wasn’t dreaming and what was happening was real. But with the faces of three little kids looking up at him, Pasborg – himself a father of three – realized he was this family’s only hope. With the situation getting worse by the second, he knew it was time to act now, think later.

“I didn’t even think twice,” Pasborg said. “As soon as they said that, ‘my mom’ and ‘my little brother,’ within five seconds I said ‘you get behind that truck and you do not follow me,’ and I went through that damn door like the Kool-Aid man.”

Smoke hit him as soon as he entered the garage, and he could hear fire alarms blaring from inside. It wasn’t the first time Pasborg had been in a burning house, having been a volunteer firefighter in Superior, but it was the first time he’d gone in without any gear or equipment. Once he entered the home, Pasborg dropped to his knees.

Extreme heat and darkness closed in around him as he crawled forward. He isn’t sure how far he crawled.

“It’s all a blur, really,” he admitted.

As he made his way across the floor, Pasborg bumped into a four-year-old boy who was on his hands and knees in the kitchen. Scooping the boy up by the waist, Pasborg scooted across the floor to keep them both as low as possible until they could get out of the house. Once outside, he put the boy in his work truck and told the other children to get in so they could stay warm. With the children taken care of, Pasborg hurried back inside.

As he crawled even further than he had before, Pasborg heard a strange noise. After a moment he realized the sound was someone struggling to breathe. That’s when he found the children’s mother.

“As soon as I got to her she took her last breath of air,” Pasborg remembers.

He grabbed the woman under the arms and dragged her out of the house, using his knees to push himself across the floor in an attempt to stay under the smoke.

Once he got them both outside and over to his truck, Pasborg checked the woman for a pulse, a breath, or any signs of life.

“There was nothing,” he recalled.

Pasborg immediately began CPR. Meanwhile, the daughter of the family got out of the truck, having called 911. Pasborg talked to dispatch as he performed CPR, starting with compressions and breaths. After more compressions, he was about to start on a second set of breaths when the woman suddenly sat up and gasped for air.

“A lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders at that time,” Pasborg said. “We still had a lot going on, but I was very thankful that she took that breath of air.”

Getting the woman into the truck, Pasborg drove the whole family away from the burning house, going down their driveway until he reached the highway again. About five minutes later, the first sheriff’s vehicle showed up, followed by the fire department and an ambulance.

While EMS staff worked to get the woman stable in Pasborg’s truck, they took the young boy to the ambulance and asked Pasborg to sit with him. Looking at the boy’s burns and seeing how shook up he was, Pasborg did his best to provide a distraction.

“I just talked to him like he was my own kid,” Pasborg explained.

He asked questions like the boy’s favorite color and when his birthday was until the child had started to calm down.

Once the mother and son were loaded into the ambulance it rushed them to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. The woman was later flown to Salt Lake City due to her injuries.

As 25 firefighters from Green River Fire Department and Fire District No. 1 worked to get the blaze under control, Pasborg met with the children’s grandmother, who had walked from her home behind the family’s house.

Pasborg drove the grandmother and the children to her house, after which he returned to his own home.

He wasn’t there long, however, before the grandma contacted him, asking if he had any clothes to spare for the children who’d just lost everything. Once again, Pasborg didn’t hesitate.

“I dug through my kids’ personal clothes and my clothes and my fiancé’s clothes,” he said.

After delivering his family’s clothes to the grandmother’s home, Pasborg still wanted to do more. He got together with his fiancé, Alexandria Price, and her sister, Miranda Martinez. They put together some money then headed to Walmart where they bought clothing for the family. The trio ended up spending a few hundred dollars getting anything they could think of.

When Pasborg delivered the new clothing to the family, they were extremely thankful and wanted to repay him, but he assured them repayment wasn’t necessary.

“When I walked in with all them clothes and I sat down on the couch across from them kids, and all three of them kids got off the couch and come and sat next to me and just held on to me -” Pasborg’s voice broke slightly as he recalled the moment. “It felt really good. That family will forever have a special place in my heart.”

The man who saved their mom and little brother will also have a special place in the children’s hearts forever, and in the heart of the husband and father of the family, who has been out of town but has spoken to Pasborg several times on the phone – conversations which have been full of emotion.

“He told me he loved me,” Pasborg said. “He said that they have a really long road to recovery, but if it wasn’t for me that road wouldn’t even be there. And he expects me over for Thanksgiving next year.”

In addition to the gratitude of the family he saved, Pasborg has felt the gratitude and praise of complete strangers in the week since the fire.

“It’s been mind blowing,” he admitted, explaining he never expected the amount of recognition he’s received.

As his story began to be shared, Pasborg started getting hundreds of Facebook notifications and messages, from people calling him a hero to people offering to buy him dinner. The story has only continued to spread, with news broadcasters from places like Salt Lake City and Canada reaching out to him.

When it comes to being a hero, Pasborg realizes his choice to enter the house was the difference between life and death for the mom and little boy he rescued. But he couldn’t tell you what was going through his mind at the time. He just realized something had to happen.

“The only thing that I knew is there was innocent people in that house burning,” he said.

While a house fire is “a whole different ball game” according to Pasborg, this wasn’t the first time he’s stepped in to help when he saw a need.

Recently he stopped traffic to help a woman in a wheelchair cross the street. Once he found a man trapped under his four wheeler in the Wind River Mountains, got him out, performed CPR, took the tailgate off his uncle’s truck to serve as a backboard and transported the man until he could reach service to call EMS.

“It’s kind of how I was raised,” he said. “I was raised to care about others.”

Pasborg is determined to continue to care about others and help out however he can.

“If I were to leave this house tomorrow and come across the same thing, I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. “And it’s not because of the recognition and stuff like that. It’s – we’re all human. And the world is a crazy enough place without people hating people. So if I can do my part to make this world just a little better, I’ll do it.”

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