A disabled man may have lost his life in an Oakland apartment fire Thursday, if it wasn't for the heroic actions of a neighbor.
James Jackson, 41, a basketball coach for young children, said he was hanging out with friends near the corner of 82nd Avenue and International Boulevard when he heard his cousin screaming that a nearby apartment was on fire.
Jackson ran to the scene, jumped the gate, climbed the wall, and entered the second-story apartment from the balcony.
He found a disabled man trying desperately to escape the burning apartment.
"By the time I got to him it seemed (he) had already fallen off his wheelchair and he was trying to escape to the balcony," Jackson said.
He said the apartment had flames everywhere, and the man was on fire from his head to his feet.
"He just told me to help him, he just told me to pull him out," Jackson said.
But the fire was so hot that Jackson couldn't approach the man, and he retreated to the balcony, hanging over the side. After a burst of flames, he fell to the ground.
"I gathered myself, I jumped back up and I pulled him outside," Jackson said. He said someone else handed him a hose, and he used it to douse the flames and keep the man wet until firefighters arrived.
Firefighters were on the scene by 2:04 p.m., and had the fire under control by 2:20 p.m. The disabled man was taken to St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco with third degree burns.
But Battalion Chief Adrian Sheppard said that without Jackson's quick action, the man likely would have died.
"He's the hero of the day," Sheppard said.
Jackson said he lives nearby on 85th Avenue, but happened to be visiting friends on 82nd Avenue.
This wasn't Jackson's first experience fighting fires -- before he heard his cousin's screams, he was telling friends that he used to work with Cal Fire in Stockton, on their Youth Authority program and on the fire crew.
But he said in those days he wasn't saving lives, but fighting forest fires.
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