STOCKTON (CBS13) — It was a devastating day for dozens of tenants in Stockon after an early morning fire gutted part of the Mayfair Apartments on North El Dorado and Flora Streets on Tuesday.
Fortunately, all the tenants are OK, and they don’t just have the fire department to thank.
Many of the tenants were sleeping inside the building when the fire broke out. They woke up to the sound of a fire alarm, pulled by a good Samaritan trying to get them out of the burning building.
As heavy smoke and flames poured out of the Mayfair Apartments, former Marine Corps Officer Jose Tienda sprang into action.
“I was about to warm up my class outside and saw white smoke coming out of the roof,” he said.
Jose was teaching a Crossfit class next door but says he left and ran into the burning building.
“I started going around and pounding on doors trying to find the fire alarm,” he said.
That’s when Jose says he discovered most of the tenants had been sleeping.
He pounded on at least a dozen doors and pulled every fire alarm he could find to wake the tenants up, and get them out of the building.
According to San Joaquin County officials, the tenants are mentally disabled.
“I just know they had family and I wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” said Jose.
Flames quickly spread inside the building, challenging firefighters who spent two hours trying to get the blaze under control.
“You have two to three feet of space in between the ceiling of one floor and the floor of the next, the fire gets up in there and then starts to travel laterally and travels up walls and plumbing shoots,” said Stockton Fire Battalion Chief Brandon Doolan.
Crews were pulling out victims as the fire continued to spread.
“Everyone is safe which was the most important thing to me.”
Brianne Wilkinson manages the building and lives on-site.
She says she’s devastated by the fire but relieved her tenants are ok.
“They were fine, they really handled it like champs,” Wilkinson added.
A fire with deadly potential missed dozens of victims, as some are calling Jose a hero.
“Everybody’s gotta do their part so I feel like I just did mine,” said Jose.
The county’s Department of Mental Health is now looking for temporary housing for the tenants.
Fire investigators say it will take weeks before they can find out what caused the fire.