Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa and three on-duty probation officers were at the right place at the right time Monday morning to effect the rescue of a 68-year-old bedridden woman inside of a burning home with seconds to spare.
Serpa was in the area at 11:14 a.m. when he spotted heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the home at 2222 Sixth Street.
“I went up to the front of the house and had reports of somebody inside so I made entry and found one person in the back trying to get her dog out,” said Captain Serpa. “As we got her out she said her elderly mother was still inside so myself and three probation officers went back inside and found her in a back bedroom. She wasn’t ambulatory so we picked her up and carried her out.”
The rescue came as the fire was well established in the attic space of the home. The woman suffered only minor injuries.
The fire broke out during a time of high winds clocked between 25 to 30 mph which fanned the flames into neighboring structures. “It was spreading to a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment behind the residence to the south.”
A second alarm was called with firefighters performing an aggressive attack to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring structures. The exterior of a Seventh Street apartment immediately east of the burning home across the rear alley sustained fire damage.
A third alarm was called, bringing a total of nine fire engines, three truck companies and six chief officers from Ceres, Modesto and Stanislaus Consolidated fire departments.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries with one burned slightly in a shift of the wind.
“Luckily he was wearing all of his gear and was breathing air (from a tank) at the time. There was a wind shift that blew some fire onto him, damaged his gear and his helmet in the process.”
Serpa said that had firefighters not been as aggressive as they were at least one or two more structures would have been destroyed.
The Sixth Street house was a total loss and the damage done to all three structures – which included warped or melted siding – has been estimated at $200,000.
Chief Serpa didn’t immediately have the names of the three probation officers who helped the rescue but phoned their supervisors to give them “an attaboy.”
With smoke pouring into the nearby Richland Shopping Center and fear that a building there was on fire, the staff at Kidz Childcare & Preschool evacuated approximately 18 children to the downtown fire station, said Serpa.
The Sixth Street fire was one of many calls answered by the department on Monday. Firefighters also scrambled to fight a fire in an alley in the Morgan Road and Atlantic Drive area as well as wires that fell onto the ground on Janopaul Avenue in south Modesto.