Calif. Maintenance Workers Save Man From Fire

June 28--When John Gregory, 52, nodded off Wednesday afternoon, he wasn't expecting the sofa he was sitting on to catch fire.

Gregory, who has a condition that limits his walking, admits he was drinking that day and he eventually passed out while smoking in his Hale Road apartment. When he awoke, the couch corner was ablaze and the flames were spreading rapidly.

Gregory quickly got on all fours and began to crawl away, a position he says is easier for him than walking with a cane.

"I was probably crawling the wrong direction, I was so disoriented," Gregory said.

After only a few moments of inhaling the smoke, he dropped to the floor of his ground-level apartment and fell unconscious.

Later, he came to at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

Around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, two maintenance workers for Preferred Property Management heard an alarm go off and rushed to the apartment, where they saw a couch on fire and Gregory on the floor.

Manny Tinoco, 46, and Enrique Orocco, 42, opened the door and pushed through the thick smoke to where Gregory was prone on the floor. When they checked his vitals, his mouth was filled with phlegm and his eyes were rolling to the back of his head.

"If that guy was in there for five more minutes he would be dead," Orocco said.

Without hesitation, Tinoco grabbed Gregory's arms, and Orocco grabbed his legs. They pulled him out of the building.

"If you were in the same place, you would do the same thing," Tinoco said.

Not too long after that, firefighters showed up and put the flames out in roughly five minutes, according to Lodi Fire Capt. Todd Luke.

But the maintenance workers' job wasn't done yet. After fire crew left on Wednesday, the workers got together and scrubbed the apartment clean. The next day, at 8 a.m., the men primed and painted any visible burn marks on the ceilings and walls.

They said even though Gregory was safe, he still needed a place to stay.

"These are genuine heroes right here," Gregory said, pointing to the two maintenance workers with his thumb.

Gregory had been worried that he'd have to spend the night at a mission Thursday night.

Back in his apartment on Friday, Gregory said he will no longer drink or smoke inside his home because he came too close to death.

"I'm going to wean myself off these, and that's that," Gregory said, popping a cigarette into his mouth while standing outside his apartment.

Contact reporter James Striplin at

Copyright 2014 - Lodi News-Sentinel, Calif.