Deputy who evacuated fire victims says he's not hero

A San Mateo County sheriff's deputy who helped evacuate residents from an apartment building on fire in Millbrae said he isn't a hero because he was just doing his job.

Video from the San Bruno Fire Department shows heavy smoke billowing from the complex on Hemlock Avenue. Edgar Manilla was the first sheriff's deputy on scene.

"I noticed a lot of the families were confused, didn't know where to go, were pretty panicking," Manilla said, adding he thought to himself, "I gotta spring into action, I have to do something."

Already wearing a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic, Manilla ran into the building and helped people evacuate.

"I had to make sure that the building was clear," he said.

Manilla came across a woman with her kids.

"There was a mother with two young children having trouble exiting, so I quickly picked up the toddler and escorted them out," Manilla said.

He went back inside and helped others, including an elderly couple. Other deputies also arrived to help.

Manilla suffered smoke inhalation.

"I started to feel dizzy, shortness of breath, just very hard to breathe," he said.

He was taken by ambulance to a hospital and is now recuperating at home.

The cause of the three-alarm fire is under investigation. Residents of the building were displaced, but it could have been far worse.

Manilla said what he did was all part of the job.

"It's rewarding, but i don't feel like a hero. It's just something we do," he said.

The community is thankful.

"Thank you for serving. We love you so much. Hopefully you get better soon," one woman said in video posted by the Sheriff's Activities League.

Another woman said, "Hi, thank you for being such a good hero and saving people's lives."

And he's saved many lives over the years..

Manilla  was honored by Sheriff Carlos Bolanos for saving a 2-year-old boy choking on a crouton back in 2015. The deputy was at a pizzeria with his family at the time. 

"I was able to administer chest compressions, back blows," he said.

A year before that, Manilla saved two girls trapped in a fire in Moss Beach.

He's also received awards for his work with the Explorers program for young people interested in law enforcement.

Manilla, an 18-year veteran of the sheriff's office, once studied to become a firefighter and previously worked as an EMT.