A Hanford man is being recognized by city, state and federal officials after being credited with helping to save a neighbor from a burning house.
On Tuesday, Jose Espinoza received the recognition at the regular City Council meeting, which included the Citizens Life Saving Medal and the Citizen Heroism Award from the Hanford Fire Department and Chief Steve Pendergrass. He also received commendations from the offices of State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) and Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford).
On Aug. 5, Espinoza was alerted to a fire at the home of Bob Depedro, his neighbor and friend, across the street. Not seeing Depedro outside on the lawn, Espinoza ran across the street to find him. A video taken by a neighbor shows Espinoza running across the street and leaping the man’s picket fence, nearly getting hit by a passing car in the process. Espinoza said he had “tunnel vision” at the time.
Espinoza contacted his neighbor at the front door and pulled him to safety by the arm, as he was about to go back inside for his dog, Goten. Goten died in the fire and Depedro’s house burned completely down. Depedro also lost his wife, Tomomi, in June from an illness.
Pendergrass credits Espinoza for pulling Depedro to safety, saying he likely would have died if not for his action.
“By Mr. Espinoza pulling out the homeowner, he indeed saved his life,” Pendergrass said. “He was going for his dog and … this fire was making a significant run through the structure itself.”
Espinoza moved to Hanford five years ago, and he and Depedro struck up a friendship in that time. It was common for Espinoza to help with yard work and other chores. Meanwhile, Depedro and his wife would drop off Thanksgiving dinner and Filipino food for Espinoza and his family.