With no EMS providers at fire scene, Calif. shopper takes burn victim to hospital

Shannon Wiggins called 911 to report the apartment fire, then drove to it


Kevin Valine
The Modesto Bee

MODESTO, Calif. — Shannon Wiggins was pulling out of the shopping center at the southeast corner of McHenry and Sylvan avenues Monday morning when she saw the smoke from the nearby Casa de Paz apartments in north Modesto.

She called 911 to report the fire, and then drove to it. She parked near Casa de Paz and rushed over to the two-story complex of 67 units, looking for people who needed help. She spotted a man sitting on the grass and could see his hands were severely burned.

Wiggins moved him to the shade and cooled his hands with water from a hose. But when he said he couldn't take the pain any longer, she told a firefighter she was driving him to the hospital and would be back. Wiggins said the firefighters were just arriving and she could not find any EMS workers.

The three-alarm fire damaged eight apartments.

"It was a really eventful day, but, no, I don't normally do something like this," said Wiggins, a Modesto resident. "But it's in my nature to help, so I did what I knew best."

Wiggins is one of four good Samaritans who helped firefighters. Landscapers Daniel Cabral, Jesus Garcia and Gildardo Espinoza were on a break at the complex when they saw smoke from a back bedroom. Cabral and Garcia knocked on doors to get residents out, and Espinoza called 911 and the property manager.

Modesto Fire Department Deputy Chief Darin Jesberg has said the department plans to recognize the four.

Officials reported that Wiggins, who turned 32 on Thursday, is a nurse. Wiggins said she is not, but she understands the mix-up. She said she is a phlebotomist and lab assistant.

Cabral has said he saw the man with the burned hands run from a burning ground-floor apartment. Jesberg has said the fire's origin and cause are under investigation.

Wiggins drove the man to the emergency department at Memorial Medical Center. "I used to work there," she said. "They are just a great hospital."

Wiggins said the man told her he works nights and had gotten home and went to bed when he woke up to flames in his apartment.

An update on his condition was not available Thursday.

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(c)2022 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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