PHOENIX - A retired marine was critically injured and is recovering at a local burn unit after neighbors helped rescue him from his burning home Sunday morning.
Phoenix Fire Captain Ruben Saavedra said Phoenix and Glendale Fire Department crews responded just after 1 a.m to find the home near 43rd Avenue and Cactus Road heavily filled with smoke and flames. When they arrived, neighbors were surrounding a man in the front lawn.
"As soon as we broke the windows, we got a very heavy smoke," said Muhannad Al Kusairy, one of four neighbors who pulled Bill Clemons out of his home.
"It was a matter of seconds," he said. "If we delayed for another sixty seconds, he was going to be gone because there's no way to breathe."
Kusairy, a limousine chauffer, was returning home from a late shift when he noticed smoke billowing from his neighbor's home.
"His body was burned, but he was able to talk and answer the questions" said Kusairy, who moved to the United States three years ago from Iraq as a refugee after refusing to fight against U.S troops. He believes his military training helped him stay calm during this intense situation.
Medical crews transported Clemons to a local burn unit where he was listed in extremely critical condition, said Saavedra.
Friends who visited Clemons at the hospital said he's in a medically-induced coma.
"He's not conscious, and he's in critical condition. It's not good," said Kate Tucker, a friend who plays the saxophone with Bill at Calvary Community Church.
She said Clemons lives at the home with his wife and nephew. They were both out of town when the fire erupted.
"We're praying, everybody's praying. We got a storm of prayer going for him," she said.
Church friends also said Clemons was at one time the captain of the Marine Corps band.
"He played for one of the presidents, I believe. Quite a guy," said Tucker.
"I really wish from the bottom of my heart that he's going to recover soon," said Kusairy. "I really hope he's going to come back to us and play some saxophone."
Fire officials said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.