LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Police Department officer Sean Dinse was driving home on a recent Wednesday morning when he saw plumes of smoke in the distance.
He was off-duty, but nonetheless decided to follow the smoke to its origin: a smoldering RV that was completely consumed by flames.
“I really didn’t need to stay because the fire department was there, but something said to stop,” he said.
That’s when he saw Anna Jacobson, the owner of the RV.
“I saw her on the ground, balled up — just crying,” he said.
Jacobson had only arrived in California a few weeks before, and the fire destroyed all of her possessions except for her social security card and some cash.
The blaze had started innocently, she said, after she dropped a candle. Right away, the curtains caught fire and soon enough the rest of the RV was charred.
Jacobson escaped without major injuries but lost “pretty much everything,” she says.
But she was soon to catch a lucky break, since Dinse, who has worked extensively with the homeless on Skid Row, was prepared to help.
He started by calling officers with the LAPD’s homeless outreach program. He insisted that Jacobson needed housing right away.
“If it’s someone who is truly homeless and needs help, we should be able to get them help immediately — not two weeks from now,” he said. “We should be able to make a phone call just like I did that day.”
Jacobson was placed in an apartment that day, but other challenges still awaited her.
For one, she needed to get back to work, but her hair was badly burned in the fire. That’s where Woodland Hills hair stylist Heidi Sheaks came in.
She saw a post on Dinse’s Facebook post about Jacobson and offered to help.
“We always feel better when our hair is done,” Sheaks said. “I just gave her some TLC. It just needed to be trimmed up and cleaned up and freshened up.”
Jacobson said she’s profoundly grateful.
“I would never have expected a lot of what actually happened to me,” she said. “I thought everything had crashed down and I didn’t know where I was going to go from there.”