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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 12:44 pm |


Couple Describe Rescue of Disabled Woman from Burning Apartment in Vandenberg Village

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department custody deputy and detective's daughter identified as rescuers

Maddison Henslin and Zachary Salce are credited with saving the life of a disabled woman. Click to view larger
Maddison Henslin and Zachary Salce are credited with saving the life of a disabled woman Tuesday night, pulling her from a burning apartment in Vandenberg Village. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

The couple credited with saving the life of disabled woman trapped in a burning apartment in Vandenberg Village Tuesday night say they did what anyone else would have done.

Zachary Salce, a newly hired custody deputy for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and his 21-year old girlfriend, Maddison Henslin, the daughter of a sheriff’s detective, rushed to the scene of an apartment fire Tuesday night and helped pull a woman out of the flames and smoke. 

On Wednesday, Salce and Henslin shrugged off the title of hero.

“I feel like I did yesterday when I woke up,” Salce said. “We did what anyone else would do in the same position.”

At approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday, the couple heard an alarm and eventually smelled smoke.

Their investigation pinpointed the source as a downstairs neighbor’s apartment on the 300 block of Burton Mesa Boulevard. 

Salce knocked on the door and heard a woman screaming for help. After ruling out windows — one felt hot to the touch — as a way to get inside the burning apartment, Salce said he kicked down the locked door. 

Smoke filled the apartment so Salce and Henslin crawled on the floor, taking advantage of a small gap without smoke.

“All we could see was her feet,” said Salce, the 25-year-old son of a Five Cities Fire Authority battalion chief.

“There was almost zero visibility,” he added. 

The pair got the woman to safety outside, but she initially was unresponsive, Salce said. She eventually regained consciousness once free from the smoke.

At approximately the same time, Santa Barbara County firefighters arrived on scene and determined no one else was inside the apartment. 

In a unique twist, a smartphone app alerted the rescued woman's husband to the fire, prompting him to report the blaze from his work in Santa Barbara, firefighters said.

The fire was contained to the one room in the apartment and the cause remained under investigation. 

"Santa Barbara County Fire would like to commend those two individuals who took that extra step and rescued that disabled woman from the smoke that was filling her apartment," said Mike Eliason, a county Fire Department spokesman.

Salce and Henslin, who moved to the apartment complex four months ago after growing up southern San Luis Obispo County, said they did not know the woman they rescued. 

A day after the rescue, the pair expressed relief that the woman, who is in her 60s and was taken to Lompoc Valley Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, was alive.

Despite little sleep, Salce and Henslin said they kept their regular schedule on Wednesday — he’s attending the custody deputy academy at Allan Hancock College while she works for Santa Barbara County Animal Services.

“I am happy that we were in the right place at the right time and were able to do what we could to help," he said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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