SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A San Francisco man pulled an elderly couple out of a burning building in the Mission District on Friday.

He is being treated for smoke inhalation but is recovering just fine. Twenty-two people have been displaced by Friday’s fire, but all of them made it out alive.

Josue Contreras was working at the door of the Dogtrick Bar in the Mission District when he noticed a strong smell resembling fireworks. He quickly learned it was coming from an apartment that caught fire across the way on 20th Street.

Contreras was told an elderly couple was stuck on the top floor of the three-story complex, so he ran into the burning building.

“I found one on the top of the stairs. She was gasping for air and the other one was an old man in a room putting on his shoes and I told him ‘We have to go.’ And he said, ‘I have to put on my shoes’. And I said, ‘No, sir.’ So, I grabbed him from the back, and I just pulled him out of there, and just went through the smoke and got lost for a second because I forgot where the stairwell was. Somehow eventually I found it and got the hell out of there,” he said.

Contreras pulled them out one at a time. On the second trip, he found the old man but lost his way to the exit. The plume of smoke grew darker to the point where he didn’t think he was going to make it out alive.

“I was inhaling a lot of smoke at that time. I do remember hunching down and kind of hugging him and thinking, ‘I think I’m going to die with this old man,’” said Contreras.

Contreras and the elderly man made it out unscathed, though Contreras is being monitored by doctors for smoke inhalation. The building has been red-tagged, so no one can live inside until it is restored and safe again.  

“To see that boarded-up wall and you’re like ‘Damn I went up there.’ It was crazy and all those people got displaced and those firemen shut that down. In 15 minutes, it was under control,” said Contreras.

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The San Francisco Fire Department credits Contreras with helping the person get out unharmed but does not recommend anyone to enter a burning building before considering how far away firefighters are. SFFD said the average response time is four minutes from dispatch.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.