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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Instincts save South Hill man’s life

Ross Boatsman, 24, stands  near the debris-strewn yard of a South Hill apartment destroyed by fire Monday. 
 (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The 24-year-old learned CPR when he was a teenager wanting to pick up baby-sitting jobs. On Monday, Ross Boatsman used that training to save a man’s life.

“His face, his ears and his nose were all blue,” Boatsman said. “I remembered enough to be confident.”

But he did more than just CPR. Boatsman and his uncle, Greg Mechals, went into the Spokane man’s blazing home, squashed the fire, then risked their lives to pull the 52-year-old outside.

“This just doesn’t happen every day,” Spokane Fire Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said. “This was an incredible demonstration of heroism and citizenship that I appreciate from a personal as well as an organizational level.

“He wouldn’t be alive right now if it weren’t for those two guys.”

The victim, identified by a neighbor as John Lauerman, was in satisfactory condition Monday at Sacred Heart Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Boatsman and Mechals, who work nearby in their family’s florist shop, were alerted to the apartment fire in the 1200 block of South Division Street when a passer-by told them of smoke pouring into the sky.

The basement apartment door was open, Boatsman said. “I saw the carpet was on fire. I grabbed a couple blankets to put the fire out. My uncle got a fire extinguisher.”

Smoke was still heavy, but the flames were out, he said.

Once outside, Boatsman heard a growling sound. “I thought: There’s a dog in there. We have to go back in and save him,” he said. Instead, he found a man slumped over in an office chair.

Boatsman used the chair and pulled the man across the smoky room until he got about three-quarters of the way out. “I had to run out to catch my breath before I fainted,” he said.

Mechals pulled the man the rest of the way.

“It took us four minutes to get there, and a fire doubles every minute,” Schaeffer said, adding the cause of the fire is under investigation. “And that environment would not have been compatible with life.”

When Boatsman, a Realtor, was asked if he’d ever considered working in the fire service, he said: “It’s nothing I’ve ever entertained.” He said what he did was just instinct.