3 SFPD officers hailed as heroes, rescue people from burning building
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Three San Francisco police officers are being hailed as heroes for rescuing more than a dozen people from a burning building in the city's Castro District.
KTVU has uncovered new cell phone video from the incident, which happened during pride weekend. It shows the brave actions of those officers, one of whom tried to fight flames from a second story roof.
The video shows black smoke billowing around Officer Brendan Caraway as he climbs out a second story window of a hair salon on Castro and 18th Street to try to put out a balcony fire, started by a barbecue grill.
"We didn't really think much of it we just went into the building to help," said Officer Caraway.
Fellow Officer Duncan Duffin can be seen in the video grasping Caraway by the waist as Caraway tries to squelch flames with a fire extinguisher.
"While I was holding him, the smoke just got a lot worse and it seemed to get darker in color," said Duffin. That's when Duffin, Caraway and Officer Graham Matthews knew they had to get everyone out.
"I was just finishing up a client's haircut ... I started smelling smoke," said Michael Valdez, who was working at the Every Six Weeks Salon that Saturday at four 'clock in the afternoon.
“All these cops come rushing up our stairs and said ‘Get out of the building now!'"
Valdez ran out of the building with his client while Caraway and Duffin climbed out the window near Valdez's work station to try to get the fire under control.
Gay Pride celebrations were about to go full swing in the Castro, onlookers watched as the small barbecue fire grew.
"The fire spread pretty rapidly," said Caraway, who then retreated and decided to evacuate everyone next door. The officers initially thought they had entered the burning building when they ran into the salon but learned it was actually next door.
Storeowners and residents guided the officers down a long sidewalk and around the corner near a coffee shop to the proper entrance.
"Somebody came banging on the door really loudly!" said Donald Vanneman, who was in his apartment.
"A couple of 'em were asleep. We had to bang on some doors pretty hard to wake people up," said Officer Caraway.
The three officers safely evacuated about a dozen people from the burning building. Firefighters arrived within minutes and put out the flames.
"I know it was probably a very dangerous situation," admitted Officer Duffin," but you know there's people in there and so we took off running. I mean, our main priority is to get people out safely."
People who live and work in the two buildings say the police officers went above and beyond the call of duty.
"I highly appreciate what they did," said Valdez.
"I think the officers did a great job, yes, I'm very proud of our police department," said Vanneman.
"Our job is to try and help the citizens of San Francisco and to protect them, they were in danger, we did our job," said Officer Caraway.
"We had a couple people who came up and said hey, we want to thank you for helping out and watching our back," said Ofcr. Duffin. "And it really does, even those little words, it goes a long ways."