VALLEJO, Calif. (KTVU) - In Vallejo, a house fire with an elderly occupant might have ended tragically but for one man.
25-year-old William Mackenzie is being called a hero for getting a 94-year-old woman to safety.
It happened on Valle Vista Avenue Tuesday morning.
While driving to work, Mackenzie spotted smoke and flames coming from a garage, and pulled over.
"It was a full-force fire, and by the time we got out, it was up to the power lines, and took a power line down,"
Mackenzie jumped in before Vallejo firefighters arrived, because bystanders told him an elderly woman lived in the home and wasn't answering her door.
"So I tried, knocking fast, and hard, trying to get her to come," he recounted, before trying to kick it open.
He finally broke in-throwing his 6' tall frame and 200-pound strength behind it.
"I started pushing my way in, and it took about two shoulder slams before it finally released."
He shouted, and the elderly widow answered that she was in the kitchen.
"It's countdown time," he shouted to her, "How come you're not getting out of the house? We got to go, let's do this!"
Smoke and heat were already in their faces, fire encroaching from the garage.
"It was so big when I was talking to her, I could hear crack and pop, and things collapsing," said Mackenzie.
"So I told her it's time to get outside, it's going to be coming in the house."
Carefully Mackenzie led her out of the house and down the steps to safety.
She was calm, if overwhelmed.
"Once I got her in the street, she kept saying there's so much happening so much happening, it's a lot."
Firefighters gave Mackenzie lots of kudos, which he appreciates.
And he's hearing praise from his community too.
"I had no clue who lived here, so it was kind of crazy when I came out and people said, do you know who this is," he told a mutual friend who stopped by to survey the damage.
Turns out, Mackenzie, who is the fifth generation Vallejoan, knows the family of the woman he saved.
"Right on, good for you man, thanks for taking care of her," responded the passerby, shaking his hand.
Mackenzie studied some fire science after high school, but veered into construction.
"Hero is a big word, a heavy word," he told KTVU, "and I don't feel I did anything heroic. I feel like I did the right thing."
And ever the carpenter and a gentleman, Mackenzie told the retired teacher he was sorry for breaking her door.
"As soon as I apologized for the front door, she smiled from ear to ear," he recounted.
"If it was my grandmother in this house, I would love it if someone would do the same for my grandmothers, just like I did."
The house is red-tagged as unsafe to inhabit for now, and the resident is said to be staying with relatives.