Portland man rescues family from fire - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland man rescues family from fire

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A Portland man is recovering from critical injuries after he rescued his family from a duplex fire.

John Zeller is sedated in the Legacy Oregon Burn Center.

When a fast-moving fire broke out at the family duplex on the 13000 block of east Burnside, Zeller alerted five family members and two neighbors and got them to safety.

"Firefighters put protective gear on before they fight a fire," said Jeremie Zeller about his brother's heroism on April 24. "All he cared about was trying to get his family out."

John Zeller also tried fighting the fire himself, and his actions left him with severe injuries and his family with emotional scars.

"I see John lying on the ground, shaking his legs, his hands and looking up at me," said his mother Frances Darden about the seeing her son before medics arrived to treat him. She's been among the family members keeping vigil at his hospital bed.

"He's just an all-around wonderful guy," said Theresa Zeller, his sister.

Theresa Zeller said her brother is a volunteer with Clackamas County Search and Rescue - with a constant willingness to help others.

"Whatever it took, that's what he did (to help others)," Theresa Zeller said.

John Zeller's latest effort inspired his twin brother, Jeremie Zeller, to take leave from the military - the two haven't seen each other in 17 years.

"Seeing him for the first time was shocking and heartfelt at the same time. It was nice seeing him, but not the way I wanted to see him," said Jeremie Zeller. "I love him, and I think he's a hero and hope he gets better."

The recovery process could be long. They say John Zeller will be on a ventilator for weeks. His mother is comforted by the outcome of his last significant stay in the hospital. He and Jeremie were born three months premature.

"John was the fighter. John was worse (than Jeremie) when he was born, but he was the fighter, and he came home before Jeremie did," said Darden. "(John's) tough. He's going to make it through this. It will be awhile, but he will make it."

In addition to his injuries, John Zeller lost all his clothing and his Jeep in the fire, and the family lost their home.

They said they set up a fund for him at Bank of America, called the "John Zeller fire relief contribution fund."

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