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Neighbor called hero after pulling man from fire in Omaha

Neighbor called hero after pulling man from fire in Omaha

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Jake Hoeft thought he had overslept.

When he looked outside early Wednesday, it appeared to be daylight. He panicked, assuming he was late for work.

Instead, the brightness was coming from his neighbor's house, which was ablaze.

Hoeft rushed to help.

“I could hear him in there, saying, 'Help! Help!' so I kicked the door in,” he said.

Hoeft, 31, is credited with pulling a critically injured man from the burning home near 23rd and D Streets.

Tom Kujawa, 56, was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center with burns to his hands and face.

Omaha firefighters were called to 2208 D St. at 4:35 a.m.

Rescuers said Kujawa was combative and uncooperative when they arrived. He was placed in police custody before being taken to the hospital.

Two neighbors said they were awakened by the flames shining in their homes' windows.

“The whole street was lit up,'' said Timothy Robeck, 55. “It was quite a sight.''

Robeck called Hoeft a hero.

“He was shirtless and he just walks up to the porch and kicks in the front door and pulls (Kujawa) out,'' he said.

Hoeft said he asked his neighbor if he was OK. Kujawa said he thought he was.

“I said, 'All right, I got to go take a shower and get to work.' And that was it,” Hoeft said.

Fire Capt. Alex Malcom said investigators were investigating the cause of the fire. He said the blaze was confined mostly to the front of the house and its enclosed porch, which collapsed after firefighters arrived.

Investigators estimated damage to the home and its contents at $35,000.

Kujawa's house has burned before.

Louis F. Braatz, 42, Kujawa's then-roommate, died in a fire at the same home in April 2002. Kujawa was at work when that fire occurred.

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A previous version gave an incorrect age for Kujawa.

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