A man who crawled through a narrow window to extinguish a raging fire Wednesday was lauded by firefighters as a hero.
Paul Bibeau, 39, was helping neighbors move into their Newport Beach home when he noticed smoke streaming from a nearby apartment in the 300 block of East Balboa Boulevard, fire officials said.
Wearing only swimming trunks and a tank top, Bibeau ran barefoot toward the burning second-story unit and grabbed a garden hose from a neighboring apartment, fire authorities said. Bibeau broke a small glass panel on the front door, creating a two-foot-wide opening that he slipped through.
"He had to be a Houdini to get through that hole," Fire Capt. Mike Murphy said.
Despite cuts to his left shoulder from the glass, Bibeau entered the blaze in a bedroom where a mattress had caught fire from an electrical short circuit, fire authorities said. The fire had already consumed most of the walls, the draperies and furniture in the bedroom, Murphy said.
By the time firefighters arrived, "the interior of that bedroom had been pretty well gutted and [the fire] extinguished by Bibeau," Murphy said.
The elderly woman who lives at the apartment, Murphy said, was not home at the time of the fire. Neither she nor Bibeau could not be reached for comment.
Officials estimated the loss at about $5,000.
"Had he not held the place in check," Murphy said of Bibeau, "that two-story apartment complex would have easily been lost. He's our local hero."