Heavy black smoke was billowing from the windows of a brick apartment that was on fire in Immokalee when Cpl. Hal Hodes arrived around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Hodes raced out of his patrol car, past the crowd of onlookers and looked into the open front door of the apartment at 1967 Alexander Circle in Farm Worker Village. He could see smoke filling the apartment and flames shooting from a mattress wedged between a doorway to a bedroom.
A woman in the crowd pointed to a bedroom window and shouted that someone might be inside. Hodes went around the building and found a broken bedroom window with smoke billowing out.
Hodes shined his flashlight inside and spotted a set of legs. He took a couple of deep breaths and entered the front door to apartment, climbing over the burning mattress, which was obstructing the doorway to the room where 57-year-old Nicolas Desilus was on the floor.
Desilus was unconscious, breathing and had burns on his face, neck and arms when Hodes got to him. Hodes attempted to wake Desilus up, but Desilus was unresponsive.
Hodes, a 53-year-old former Navy diver, tried to drag Desilus out of the apartment, but could not get him over the mattress that was still burning in the doorway. He ran back outside several times to get air because the heavy smoke inside the apartment made breathing difficult.
Some of the bystanders threw buckets of water through the window onto the flaming mattress, while another bystander, Cedieu Paulissaint, 43, of Immokalee, entered the apartment to help Hodes.
Deputies Carlo Llorca, Thomas Folden, Lazarito Santos, and Travis Radford arrived at the scene and noticed Hodes was having difficulty getting Desilus out. Llorca, Folden, Santos and Radford entered the apartment and helped Hodes and Paulissaint carry Desilus outside.
Llorca, Folden and Santos went back inside the apartment to check for more victims and found none.
Desilus was treated at the scene by paramedics and then flown to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.
Hodes was taken to NCH North Collier Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and a minor burn to his right forearm and released.
Hodes, Llorca, Folden, Santos, and Radford will be nominated for a CCSO lifesaving award for their efforts. Paulissaint will be nominated for a civilian recognition award.