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Analy High students to be honored for helping rescue man from burning Sebastopol house

Caden Lewis was one of four Analy High School students who helped rescue a man from a house engulfed in flames near the Sebastopol campus. They’ll be honored by the school district on Wednesday.|

EDITOR’S NOTE, Sept. 16: This story has been revised to more accurately detail the Aug. 24 rescue and the central role played by three Analy High School seniors, as well as staff members. It includes reporting from additional interviews with the involved students and staff members. The original story included an incomplete account that was inaccurate in key parts describing the rescue.

Caden Lewis was on his way back to class from a chiropractor appointment on a Wednesday late last month when he noticed the parking lot of Analy High School was filled with smoke.

Looking to the right of the Sebastopol campus, he saw a plume of thick black smoke billowing from a house adjacent to the staff parking lot.

Lewis, a 14-year-old freshman at Analy, dropped his backpack and the sandwich he brought for lunch and ran toward the burning building. He said he didn’t really think about it, but just jumped into action.

By that time, three other students were already outside the house. Seniors Osmarth Espejo Enriquez, Luke Pierce, and Emma Redding, all 17, had noticed the smoke as well and thought it was coming from the campus. They followed the plume to the house. Enriquez called the police as he ran towards the scene.

Their collective response that day, Aug. 24, along with help from staff members at Analy, led to the rescue of a man who was trapped in the burning home.

Analy Principal Shauna Ferdinandson plans to honor the staff and students who helped at this week’s West County Union High School District board meeting.

“It was pretty scary,” Lewis recalled in an interview last week.

The Sebastopol Fire Department received a call about the smoke at 11:52 a.m. By 11:54 a.m., the department confirmed it was a structure fire, Sebastopol fire engineer Alex Roa said.

When Lewis ran up to the house, Pierce and Enriquez, along with a neighbor, were already attempting to open the front screen door. to the house.

He recognized the neighbor as someone who lived near the school. He didn’t know the three other students.

Then, he heard someone inside the house screaming for help.

Lewis, who is the quarterback for the school’s junior varsity football squad, said he froze in fear.

“I was probably the biggest one out of all of them, but I was the most scared,” Lewis said.

Redding began shouting orders at the rescuers, while clearing a path on the stairway up to the house, tossing potted plants away from the front entrance.

The door that Pierce, Enriquez, and the neighbor were trying to open was made of metal, so it was hot to the touch, Enriquez said. Pierce reached down and pried opened the bottom right side of the door with just his hands and what Analy Principal Shauna Ferdinandson called “superhuman strength.”

They could see the man trapped inside.

“He was trying to get out. He had open wounds…no one wanted to touch him. I took two medical classes before so I knew you can’t have skin-to-skin contact with open wounds,” Enriquez said. He grabbed the man by the wrist and pulled him out.

As he was pulling the man out, the door was pressing on the man’s skin, adding to his burns and giving off a strange smell, Enriquez said.

After they got him through the door, the man lay face down at the top of the stairs. He was an older man, and he’d suffered what looked to be serious burns, Lewis said.

“I didn’t want to look. He was burned really bad,” he said. The man’s arms were bloody and raw, and ash coated the back of his head. The inside of the house was black with smoke.

Three staff members at Analy ‒ Leah Woody, Caleb Kast, and Casey Jones ‒ helped carry the man down the stairs and away from the house, Ferdinandson said. They also grabbed fire extinguishers from the school and sprayed them into the house, emptying three canisters.

The Sebastopol Fire Department, along with Gold Ridge Fire, Graton Fire, Sebastopol Police, and emergency medical staff arrived on the scene minutes later, at noon.

“Everyone was already outside when we got there,” Roa said.

The students later returned to class, but Lewis said he couldn’t shake the image of what he’d just witnessed.

“They sent me back to class and I was shaking. I didn’t really know what to do. I kind of just sat there quietly and went to practice later. I didn’t really want to tell anyone because that was pretty scary,” Lewis said.

The next day at school, he couldn’t help but look out the windows of his classroom and replay what happened the day before. Lewis is now seeing the school therapist to work on recovering from the trauma of the incident. Redding, Pierce, and Enriquez turned down the school’s offer to speak with a therapist about the incident.

Sebastopol Fire Department captain and football coach Lou Castleberry confirmed that the man survived the fire and was later released from the hospital. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The department would not name the rescued man. Ferdinandson confirmed the students' involvement, along with staff.

Caden didn’t tell his parents about the fire and his involvement in the rescue until after practice that evening.

“Caden was really shook up,” Angie Lewis, Caden’s mother and a trustee of the West Sonoma County Union High School District, said. “But, I am so proud of him. I sat him down and told him, ‘Honey, you’re a hero. You saved somebody’s life.’”

His father, Justin Lewis, a former volunteer firefighter in Forestville, also told his son he was proud of his response.

Redding said she knew what to do in an emergency thanks to videos on TikTok, a social media app, and Enriquez said it was because he’s an older brother, and his instincts to protect are ingrained in him.

Ferdinandson said school trustees are planning to honor the students and staff who helped with the rescue at the district’s Sept. 14 board meeting.

“I want to commend them on their quick thinking, their ability to stay calm in a very stressful situation, and how they did everything they could in that moment for the good of another human being. I think it’s amazing,” Ferdinandson said.

Kylie Lawrence can be reached at kylie.lawrence@pressdemocrat.com.

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