Hero honored for rescuing elderly couple from burning building in San Francisco

In January, Josue Contreras ran into a burning building in San Francisco to save two people he had never met before.

On Wednesday, Contreras was honored by the San Francisco Fire Commission for his heroic actions.

And that fateful fire may end up leading him to his dream job.

Brave, unselfish, and fearless is how San Francisco fire officials described Contreras at a special ceremony.

"We're here today to recognize you and thank you, and you truly are a hero. I could use you on the team," said Captain Jonathan Baxter of the San Francisco Fire Department.

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Contreras was working at a bar in the Mission District on Jan. 13 when a fire broke out across the street.

Someone had yelled that people were trapped and Contreras jumped into action, running up four flights of stairs to save them.

"Every floor got a little bit darker. Every floor got a little harder. But then at the top of the floors, I remember seeing this lady on her back gasping for air much like a fish," Contreras recalled.

He carried the woman down, then went back in for her husband.

He spotted the elderly man trying to put on his shoes.

Contreras grabbed him, but couldn't find the stairs through the smoke.

"I'm going to die with this old man. I screwed up. I remember being so afraid that I was letting everybody down that I loved," he said.

In the end, Contreras and both residents made it out safely.

His family and the fire chief couldn't be more proud.

"Yes you might have been in the right place at the right time, but not everyone would have done what you did," says Chief Jeanine Nicholson. "So that's part of the reason you are to be commended. And we are hiring."

Contreras responded, "And I am looking."

As it turns out, being a firefighter had always been Contreras' dream.

"I guess in my case my dream came back," he says.

Friday's ceremony came with a certificate of appreciation, a department coin, and a job offer, but with one caveat from the chief.

"She said we're going to have to get rid of that beard," said Contreras. "And I will."

Fire officials don't recommend that citizens run into burning buildings as it's simply too dangerous. But in this case, they said Contreras' actions saved lives.