Deputies: It was a privilege and honor to help save family from burning apartment

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Two Arapahoe County sheriff deputies who helped rescue a woman and two children from a burning condo at Club Valencia say it “was an honor” to do so.

“As I was running up to the building, there was a small child... who appeared to be steaming or smoking in the grass,” said Deputy Richard Van Slyke. “Somebody yelled, ‘There’s more people inside.’”

Van Slyke told Denver7 that he saw a lot of smoke as he ran up to the sliding glass door, but he walked in anyway.

“The smoke was so thick,” he said, “It was from the roof to my waistline.”

The deputy said he couldn’t see inside the apartment, so he used his flashlight, and then had to back out because he couldn’t breathe.

Van Slyke then grabbed some loose clothes, held them over his face, then went back inside.

“As I ran up to the building, I heard him yell, ‘Hey, I can’t see anything inside. Why don’t you go around the front,’” said Deputy Kyle Brown.

Brown said he ran to the front door and saw a woman pulling a child out of the doorway.

“She took the small child out front, and I opened the door further to see the female, the mom and (the other child) lying on the ground. I drug [sic] her from the apartment outside.”

Both deputies say their adrenaline kicked in when they learned there were children inside the burning condo.

“Seconds count,” Brown said.

When asked why they risked their own lives, Brown matter-of-factly said, “I have small children at home. I’d want someone to do the exact same thing.”

The deputy told Denver7 there was no thought process involved.

“It’s why I do this job,” he said, “to protect lives…and the community in which I grew up.”

Van Slyke said when he exited the burning condo, he saw a woman, the mom’s sister-in-law holding one of the children and comforting the other.

“So, I asked her to take that child and follow me,” he said. “I picked up the other one and we ran them over to the ambulance to get them on their way to get treated.”

Cunningham Fire Rescue Chief Jerry Rhodes said there was a delay in calling 911.

He said after the fire ignited on the kitchen stove, the mom called her husband, and he called in-laws who live in the same building. They ran over to the burning condo and then called 911.

Rhodes said that as the first crews arrived on the scene, they saw the mom and one of the children being moved outside.

He said as medics were suiting up to go inside, rescuers brought the second child to them.

Rhodes told Denver7 that investigators spoke with the mom two days ago.

“She’s doing well,” he said. “The kids were still in ICU, but their outlook is good.”

Authorities haven't released the names of the victims.

Last week, the father, Hussein Gaforov, told Denver7 that his 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son were inside the condo with his wife.

When asked about the deputies risking their own lives, entering a burning building without safety gear, Rhodes said, “We want to make sure we recognize what everyone did. We’ll probably ‘air slap’ them (for taking the risk) and then give them a hug.”

The deputies said it was a privilege to help save three lives.

“It’s really an honor to do something like that,” Brown said. “To save lives and to protect the community in which I grew up.”

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