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West Allis - Running toward the smoke and flames coming from a neighbor's house, all Steve Yanacheck could think about was getting to the woman who was wavering in the doorway of her burning home.

Having to hold onto the door just to stay on her feet, the woman couldn't walk away from her home in the 1200 block of 122nd Street.

"I grabbed her under her arms and put her over my shoulder a little and walked her to the end of her driveway," the 31-year-old former high school football player and wrestler said.

Yanacheck, who lives across the street from the woman,had sprung into action when his mother alerted him that someone was in trouble.

"My mom was in the living room and said she heard screams or yelling, 'I can't breathe,'" Yanacheck said.

Waiting not an option

With quick action being critical, it never crossed his mind to wait for firefighters, Yanacheck said.

"I don't know how fires work," he said. He was afraid flames might get to something flammable, and the house could blow up, he said.

For his selfless courage on that June 3 day, the West Allis Fire Department last week honored him with its Citizen Bravery Award.The honor hasn't been given in years, said Fire Department Lt. Steve Kaltenbrun who presented the award at a West Allis National Night Out block party near Yanacheck's home last week.

"He went above and beyond for a citizen," Kaltenbrun said."He did something very brave."

"Fire is scary, you're never sure what to expect from a burning building," he said.

Yanacheck even had to jump a 3- to 4-foot fence to reach the woman. Perhaps luckily, the fence collapsed under him, both crashing to the ground. While it left the rescuer bruised, the fence collapse left a fairly clear route to safety.

"I carried her over this mangled gate," Yanacheck said.

Neighborhood pride

Alderman Michael May one of two aldermen who represent the area said, "This kind of bravery and heroism is exactly what we need in our neighborhoods."

It is one of the three things a strong neighborhood needs, he said. Those three things are looking nice, having amenities and having people who will rise to the occasion when someone needs help, May said.

The fire department did not release the name of the victim. She was alone in the house except for her dog, who got out safely. The cause of the fire is undetermined, and no damage estimate is available.

Also honored in the rescue was neighbor, Sherri Block who received a certificate of recognition.

Because Block called 911, "She started the whole chain of events," Kaltenbrun said.

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