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Firefighters honored for making rescue in burning house
For pulling a woman from a smoke-filled residence during a Sept. 12 structure fire, Public Safety Director Art deWerk on Monday evening honored Captain Jeff Serpa and firefighter John Gomes.

DeWerk handed both men "the chief's coin," similar to a military coin, but stated the pair did not seek out the recognition.

The two were among those who arrived at the fire that broke out in a kitchen of a house in the 800 block of Rocky Brook Drive.

Neighbors called 9-1-1 at 2:26 p.m. after seeing smoke pouring from the second floor. When Ceres firefighters arrived, a moderate amount of gray smoke was bellowing from a second floor window. Serpa and Gomes forced their way inside after calling in and hearing no response and began a search for people in the dense smoke. The thick smoke cloaked the entire second floor down to about five feet above the ground level.

As they searched for people, they heard a 42-year-old woman screaming from the top of the staircase leading to the second floor. She was inhaling an oppressively hot and dangerous smoke. The call was upgraded to a second alarm and two ambulances were called as the woman was carried outside by Serpa.

"I know she required substantial medical care afterward," said deWerk of the woman. She was treated at a Modesto hospital.

The rest of the Ceres firefighter team launched into an internal offensive mode, said deWerk.

At the outset of Monday's council meeting, Fire Chief Brian Nicholes recognized the day shift crew as well.

Gomes said the award was hard to accept "because the entire team was involved."