By Angela Musallam

CITRUS HEIGHTS (CBS13) — A Citrus Heights man is still in the hospital after firefighters say he walked back into his burning home early Sunday morning, then tried to stab a firefighter.

The fire was reported just before 1 a.m. on the 7700 block of Glenn Avenue. Firefighters were able to get the man out safely, but it’s a situation they don’t come across too often.

The suspect is only being identified as a White male in his 50s.  Police say they were called out his home earlier Saturday night for a welfare check.

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Sacramento Metro firefighters responding to the suspect’s home didn’t know what they were getting into. The in-law complex, now charred, was engulfed in flames. Firefighters found a man inside.

“They did find him in a hallway. At that point in time as they went to take him out of the house, he raised up a knife as firefighters had to subdue him,” said Sgt. Wesley Herman of Citrus Heights Police Dept.

Officers say they couldn’t enter the home because of the active flames.

“They were just able to overcome him by the sheer numbers of firefighters inside there,” Sgt. Herman added.

It was a scenario neither police nor firefighters were prepared for.

“These guys haven’t armed the way we are, they don’t train for that, their training is for fighting fires and saving lives.”

It was an eye-opening experience for Sac Metro firefighters.

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“They did what any of us would do, they made a rescue of a person that ultimately was able to be transported,” said Chris Vestal, a spokesman for Sac Metro Fire.

But the potential for an attack is the last thing on a firefighter’s mind.  Vestal says their priority is to make sure everyone is safe — and that’s what he says firefighters did — until they were blindsided by the knife-wielding suspect.

“It reminds us that we need that assessment and to take a second to look at it and say ‘is there anything that we are not seeing, before we take action?’” said Vestal.

A house fire call almost turned deadly, a firefighter’s quick thinking saving everyone involved.

“We will learn a lot from that, and ultimately that will either change or confirm some of the actions we take when we arrive on scene,” Vestal added.

The suspect is still in the hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.  He’s looking at charges of assault on a firefighter and possible arson charges. Both police and firefighters say they are thankful the situation played out safely.

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