Fire captain records dramatic rescue | February 17, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 17, 2012

Fire captain records dramatic rescue

Amador grad pulls children from hiding place in closet

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Capt. Tom Pappas of the Alameda Fire Department took part in a dramatic rescue last week that was recorded by a video camera on his helmet and is now being shared on YouTube.

"What appeared as a routine fire changed when crews arrived on scene and excited family and neighbors reported as many as 5 people trapped," reads the description of the YouTube video, which shows unedited footage, at

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.

Three children were rescued Feb. 7 as the fire crews used infrared sensors 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 last week's fire is under investigation but may have been caused by a mattress placed too close to a space heater.


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