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Friends in a fire prove friends indeed

What started out as an afternoon street hockey game turned into something much larger for Hamburg teenager Matthew Santasiero and 12-year-old neighbor Shaun Minich.

Within the span of just a few minutes Saturday. the two rescued another friend from a fire that destroyed a house at 3403 Bethford Drive.

The two ran into the house and alerted 14-year-old Jonathan Johns, who had just left the game to go home and take a shower. He wasn't even aware there was a fire raging a floor below him.

"We were all playing street hockey when we heard an explosion and saw flames coming out of the house," Matthew said. "We ran inside and started pounding on the door, yelling that the house was on fire.

"At first he didn't believe me," said the 15-year-old Frontier High School sophomore.

But Matthew and Shaun managed to get Jonathan -- and themselves -- out of the house before fire spread through the rest of the building.

"I didn't hear anything," said Jonathan, a Frontier freshman. "I was in the shower, and everything seemed perfectly fine when I walked out. Then I heard glass breaking."

The fire started in the lower level of the raised-ranch home. Jonathan's mother, Lisa Pacyon Johns, said the family isn't sure of the cause but suspects a clothes dryer.

"Fifteen minutes, and it was all gone," she said. "The firemen said, 'Thank God we weren't all there. Some of us wouldn't have made it."

She and her husband, Jonathan Sr., and daughter, Emily, had left about a half-hour before the fire started.

Jonathan said there wasn't anything he could do after he left the house. The fire trucks from the Newton Abbott Fire Company were arriving.

"All I could do was sit on the lawn at Shaun's house and watch the house burn," he said.

Lisa Johns said the house was a big loss, but she was just happy her family was safe.

Meanwhile, Matthews' grandmother, Chris Woods, said she was proud of her grandson.

"The police gave him a little, 'You're not supposed to be running into burning buildings,' " she said. "But he didn't think about that; he just knew his friend was in there."

The Johns' parrot also survived the fire -- pulled out by someone she didn't know. She said she doesn't know if her 15-year-old indoor-outdoor cat, Tom, survived or not.

The house was declared a total loss and has been razed.

In the meantime, the Johns are staying with family.

Donations are being collected for their benefit. For information or to contribute, contact Charlene Gannon at 648-7479 or at charlene@surfmk.com. Contributions also may be sent to Gannon at 40 Foxcroft Drive, Hamburg, NY 14075.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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