SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KTVU) - A chance meeting while waiting in line at a coffee shop allowed one family to thank a firefighter they claim saved their lives.
Cal Fire firefighter Brion Borba says he was waiting in line at Peet's Coffee when he started noticing a guy in front of him who kept turning around. "I could tell he wanted to strike up a conversation with me."
Borba, who was in full uniform, started chatting with the stranger in line.
Chris Bradley began describing what happened to his family the night of the Tubbs Fire. Bradley told the story of his sleeping family who knew the air was smoky, but was unaware of the looming threat. He said they were asleep when a firefighter pounded on their door. Bradley said wanted to track down the firefighter – who had risked his life – to save his family.
With all the fire crews on the job during the Tubbs Fire, Borba thought that was an impossible task but started asking questions about the location of the Bradley's home. As the pair talked, the scene began to sound all too familiar to Borba.
Borba then asked Bradley if there was “a dark Ford in front of the house, and French doors by a bed.”
As fate would have it, Borba realized he was the firefighter who saved Bradley's family. The pair both broke down and tears were shed in the middle of the coffee shop.
"Out of all the people to run into, here stands the man responsible for saving my family's lives. He told me about how he was flagged down by a neighbor. How he drove up the road to get to our house. How he was afraid he wasn't going to make it back out alive. And how shocked he was when he pounded on the door and found that my family was actually still inside, still asleep and completely unaware of the fire that was surrounding them," said Bradley.
When asked if he feared for his safety Borba told KTVU, "I could not live with myself if I knew someone got hurt or died up there - I just pray God protects me through it."
Bradley's daughter Ava was in the coffee shop as well. Borba remembered helping her to safety. "I gave Ava a big hug, everyone was emotional. It was not my plan to cry in front of everyone," laughed Borba.
"I owe this man more than I can say. My daughter is still with me because of him. I am in awe of his bravery despite his fear," said Bradley.
Bradley calls Borba his daughter's guardian angel.
In a show of humility Borba downplays the heroism of this story. He said there were hundreds of heroes in the fire, and he was just doing his job. He was just happy to meet a family he helped saying, "I don't believe in accidents."
Bradley and Borba plan to keep in touch.