FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) - The Fremont firefighters who rescued a 92-year-old man from a well 10 days ago were back at his house Wednesday. But this time, they came on their day off to help rebuild the century-old pump house where the floor had given way.
For one day, these Fremont firefighters put down their hoses and picked up some tools.
"We're public servants off duty, not just on duty,” said Mark Hogan, a Firefighter Paramedic with Fremont Fire. “It's just part of the vocation of being a firefighter. I mean the opportunity to come and help: that's the best part of the job."
It was just ten days ago that many of the same firefighters were Ernest Silva’s house offering a different kind of help. Silva had been in his pump house when the floor gave way, sending him plunging 26-feet down into the well.
He was able to tread water until a firefighter was lowered down with ropes to pull him out. He spoke with KTVU afterward about the experience but asked that we not show his face.
"I was here in a gurney and I was gone,” Silva said. “I don't think I knew where I was for a minute."
And while Silva was for the most part unharmed, the same could not be said for his pump house.
Firefighters had to take the roof off to do that rescue.
"After everything was said and done and we got him out, we all kind of knew that something was going to have to be done to replace the well house we destroyed,” Captain Michael Laughlin said.
So they took down what was left of the walls and started over from scratch, showing up on their time off, and getting their union, Local 1689 on board.
"They contacted the board, hey would we be willing to donate some money, maybe pay for the supplies maybe find some people who would be willing to donate tim," said Local 1689 Board Member Greg Biddle.
The new pump house is much sturdier than the old one. The opening over the well, just 18-inches. And since he's feeling better, Silva actually helped with the design.
"The guy, quite frankly, he's a stud,” Hogan said. “I was here two days after he fell in and he was out hauling weeds and raking. You would have never known."
And while the 92-year old admits he's not a fan of all the attention, he says he is grateful for the firefighters who helped him twice.
"He's very appreciative. But like I say, a little overwhelmed I think," Hogan said.
Each of the firefighters put their signature on the structure. They hope this pump house lasts a hundred years, just like the old one did.