By Mark Gomez
The San Jose Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A veteran San Jose firefighter suffered serious burns Thursday when flames engulfed his hands and body while he battled a four-alarm blaze at a four-unit townhouse.
The firefighter — who was not identified — fell through a portion of the roof that had been cut open to fight the blaze.
San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez said the firefighter suffered a serious burn to one hand and burns to his other hand, his waist and below his waist. He is being treated at a hospital.
Firefighters say the blaze at a townhouse might have turned fatal if not for a good Samaritan who pulled a woman out of a first-floor unit where the fire started.
"He probably saved a life by getting her out before she had been overcome by smoke or flame," San Jose fire Capt. Mike Van Elgort said.
Seventeen people, including eight children, were displaced by the fire, which ripped through the townhouse on Underwood Drive, a street lined with similar residences off Boynton Avenue. Firefighters believe a candle left burning overnight in the downstairs unit caused the fire.
The injured firefighter fell halfway through the roof after the edge of a hole collapsed, Van Elgort said. The firefighter, who was wearing safety gear, was caught by a joist in the roof which prevented him from falling all the way through.
"It was truly life threatening," said San Jose fire Capt. Robert Sapien, who was at the scene as a safety officer.
He said crews who battled the blaze "feel very fortunate" that the firefighter's injuries were not more significant.
The American Red Cross Silicon Valley chapter responded and will be providing the displaced families with food, clothing and shelter.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him atTwitter.com/MarkMgomez .
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