Capt. Tom Pappas of the Alameda County Fire Department took part in a dramatic rescue Tuesday morning that was recorded by a video camera on his helmet and is now being shared on YouTube.
Pappas, a 1988 graduate of Amador Valley High School, and his Station 24 team responded to the apartment fire near the intersection of Marcella Street off 159th Avenue just outside San Leandro shortly after 7 a.m.
As the firefighters walked down the driveway to the apartment, screams could be heard calling out that children were trapped inside the burning building. Flames poured out of the first floor, then a mother lifted her child over a second-story railing and into the hands of a waiting firefighter.
The camera on Pappas' helmet shows his entry into the second story, where he faces thick, black smoke. He searches throughout the home, following the children's screams, and finds them hiding in a closet.
"They were in the back bedroom, tucked into the closet under a blanket, scared for their lives," Pappas told news reporters. "To pull them out of that type of environment was absolutely incredible."
Three children were rescued Tuesday as the fire crews used infrared cameras to search the rooms, and one child made it out on his own, according to reports. Four people were taken to the hospital.
"We're really, really proud of him," said Pappas' mother, Jan Pappas, who still lives in Pleasanton with his father Tom.
"It's also a teaching moment," she added, "because kids tend to run into a closet with blankets."
Her son Tom Pappas was a first responder after 911, she noted, involved in search and recovery efforts. Plus he received a commendation last year after he responded to the explosion and fire in San Bruno.
The cause of Tuesday's fire is under investigation but may have been caused by a mattress placed too close to a space heater.