With smoke and fire raging around him, 13-year-old Alessandro Gonzalez said one final prayer before jumping from the fire escape on the second floor. A San Francisco police officer caught him.
“I’m just happy I’m alive,” said Gonzalez on Jan. 29, the morning after the fire that destroyed his home at 22nd and Mission streets. “I thank god, ‘cause I coulda died in there.”
District 9 Supervisor David Campos acknowledged Gonzalez on Feb. 3 for his bravery the night of the fire, in front of Gonzalez’s family and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
“In my book, you are a true hero,” Hayes-White said. “You helped us save many lives.”
Gonzalez called 911 after he heard running and screaming in the hallway, thinking someone was trying to break into his home. The dispatcher informed Gonzalez there was a fire and that he should get out.
In a panic, the 7th-grader at Thomas Edison Charter Academy shattered the window to get to the fire escape. In attempting to save his dog ‘Buddy,’ Gonzalez threw him to onlookers below.
“I was worried more about him, because you know, he’s little and he might get hurt,” Gonzalez said.
Since the blaze, an outpour of support has continued in the form of GoFundMe accounts, including one for the late Mauricio Orellana. 61 people in 11 days donated over $3,000 to send Orellana’s body back to El Salvador.
“We’re in the business of saving lives. So it was very difficult for us,” Hayes-White said.
Zack Crockett, 26, took the initiative to start a GoFundMe campaign for displaced residents.
“Wednesday night I rode my bike by the fire and just saw people filming. Family members were distressed, and not much help was there,” Crocket said.
That night, he started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $2,000. Overnight, Crocket raised $7,000, and $35,000 by the end of Thursday. He has since teamed up with the Mission Economics Development Agency (MEDA) to see how the money will be used. He has raised the goal one last time to $200,000. He has raised $180,545 by Wednesday, Feb.18.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for people who have lived here in the mission for 50, 60 years,” he said. “This is their home and they deserve to stay.”
—Alexis Terrazas, Joel Angel Juárez and Bridgid Skiba contributed to this report.
I was working when the fire happened. My husband saved two people’s lives during the fire. He was taken to the hospital because of the smoke he inhaled and is OK now. But we lost everything. Everything burned in the fire. — Yanira Hernandez, 49
I was asleep when the fire happened. Yanira’s husband knocked on my door loudly waking me up saying that there was a fire. I was taken to the hospital because my pressure was high. I was given a respirator because of all the smoke I inhaled. I felt bad, lots of memories stayed there. Everything was burned. — Milagro Rodriguez, 37
I was inside the apartment making dinner and [Maria] heard the firefighters in the building. There was no alarm in the entire building, no fire extinguisher and no sprinklers in the apartment. Now we have no place to live. — Jorge Gómez, 57
There is no comparison. But to put things into perspective, just thinking of what the people on the third floor, they lost everything just about. I lost my place of work … I tried to put things into perspective. That my loss, compared to other people’s loss, is not so total. But it’s still really painful. — Alicia Hasper
It’s terrible to think like that. But with all these new buildings coming up, who knows. — Valeria Lannes
Other areas are very much destroyed. My room is damaged, but not totally ruined. This really helped my hurt. — Alicia Hasper