A stranger raced inside a burning house and rescued a 90-year-old woman Monday morning, then disappeared before fire engines arrived.
The man in the white pickup truck even made a second trip into the house for a chair so the woman would not need to stand, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Chief Gary Boyles said.
"We sure would like to thank him," Boyles said. "That was a very brave thing that he did."
Residents of 2712 McMorrow Road in the unincorporated Tara Hills neighborhood near Pinole called for help at 9:01 a.m. after noticing the blaze on the upper floor of the two-story house.
The two-alarm fire started in an upstairs kitchen and quickly spread through the victim's living space. Her son, who uses a wheelchair, and her daughter-in-law live on the first floor, Boyles said.
The daughter-in-law wheeled her husband outside, then went back inside for his mother, who had gone upstairs to fetch her cat, firefighters said. But smoke prevented her rescue.
"She was at the top of the stairs but would not come out. There was a cat in there and that may have been the reason she wouldn't come out," Pinole fire Capt. John Madigan said. "There was heavy smoke, and the daughter-in-law said she couldn't get up there. The passerby, who just happened to be in the area, went in and grabbed her out of there."
Firefighters later knocked on doors on the block looking for the Good Samaritan but could not find him, Boyles said.
Six engines from the Pinole, Rodeo-Hercules and Contra Costa fire districts extinguished the fire, bringing it under control at 9:39 a.m. The elderly victim was treated and released at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Richmond, Boyles said, and the others were not injured.
The cat died in the fire, which caused about $100,000 in damage to the house. The fire probably started on an upstairs stove, Boyles said.