NEW ORLEANS -- Within minutes, the intense fire destroyed the small house on Touro Street, the flames exploding through the roof.
"All of a sudden I saw big smoke," said Vic San Andres. "I mean it was just so fast."
"And then it just went up, and my house was so hot I couldn't touch it," said John Bedford, a neighbor. "Then I moved my car because the tail lights had melted."
Eighty-one-year-old Ramona Mendoza from Nicaragua was visiting her son and was alone in his home when the fire started.
"Suddenly she turned around, and she saw the smoke, and she got up to take a look at what's going on, and she was desperate," said Mendoza through translator Walter Alvarez.
She ran into a side yard, and got trapped behind a locked gate until Michael Cavallaro heard her cries for help.
"I put a garbage can over there and climbed over the wooden fence and helped her push from the inside," said Cavallaro, "and another man had come up too and he pulled from the outside, and we got the doors open and got her out."
"She said he was the hand of God that helped her to get out," said Mendoza through Alvarez. "She was screaming, 'Help me,' and suddenly he showed up from nowhere. She said that's the Hand of God."
"I didn't do anything, I didn't do anything," said Cavallaro. "She was just trapped in there."
Firefighters are investigating as they always do in cases like this. But this one had them worried at first.
On a windy day, this could have been much worse.
"That's why we try to get around it real quick to keep it from running the block and jumping, so everyone did a good job here," said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Mickal.
"The fire people, I think, they did a tremendous job," said San Andres.
Forty-five firefighters rushed to the scene and had the blaze under control in half an hour.