HERCULES (CBS SF) – The past few days have been a whirlwind for Joseph Trapani.
He’s not used to the kind of attention he has received since saving an elderly man from a burning home over the weekend.
“It’s a little overwhelming but it’s heartwarming to see strangers think so highly of me,” Trapani said.
The 29-year-old Hercules resident was riding in a car with his brother and two friends on their way to play golf at the Franklin Canyon Golf Course about 1:30 p.m. Saturday when he saw a home on fire in the 2200 block of Lupine Road.
Adrenaline compelled Trapani to jump out of the car, kick the front door open and look to see if anyone was inside.
He checked a series of rooms in the single-story home, and behind the last door Trapani found an elderly man whom fire officials identified as Khang Do.
“We were really surprised to see each other,” he said.
Trapani picked up him up and escaped as the fire continued to burn.
When he brought Do to safety, he realized the elderly man didn’t speak any English. Trapani said Do simply gave him a handshake and a nod.
Neither was injured in the blaze, fire officials said.
Trapani then went back inside the house a second time to check for other occupants, even though his brother and friends were screaming at him.
“I didn’t want to leave anyone behind,” he said.
When he didn’t find anyone, he sat on a curb as firefighters arrived to put out the fire. He and his group later continued on to the golf course.
“It was a heck of a day,” he said.
The Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and Pinole Fire Department responded to the fire.
Do and another resident are receiving temporary housing assistance from the American Red Cross, Pinole Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Lowry said.
Damage to the home is estimated at about $200,000, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Chief Charles Hanley said.
Fire investigators believe the fire started in the garage in the engine compartment of a 1999 Honda sedan car and spread to the attic and living area, Lowry said.
Over the past few days, the gravity of the situation has sunk in for Trapani, who now recognizes how dangerous it was to walk into the burning home.
“I don’t know if it was very dumb or very brave,” he said.
Trapani said his experience as an emergency medical technician in Alameda County several years ago helped him get through Saturday’s rescue.
“It helps to think rationally when there’s an emergency. It helps you keep calm and do what you need to do,” he said.
When reflecting on the rescue, Trapani said the experience has helped him believe in himself and value his self-worth.
“I try to tell everyone that we’re all in this world together and we need to be mindful one another,” he said.
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