Ceasar Dominguis is more than just neighborly.
Seeing smoke coming from an elderly neighbor’s Yuba City apartment, Dominguis jumped to action and helped the woman escape the early morning blaze on May 10.
“If that was my mom or my aunt, I would have wanted someone else to do the same thing if I wasn’t there to help,” Dominguis, 22, said. “It makes me not take life for granted.”
The fire displaced about 40 people, including Dominguis, his fiancée Melissa Escobar, 23, and two children.
“It was scary with everything going on and trying to escape,” Escobar said. “Especially, with us living upstairs with two children but we’re definitely blessed that we all got out unharmed.”
Dominguis said it all started shortly after he returned from a late night at work and the children woke up unexpectedly.
“It was pretty hot so I turned on the air conditioning and Melissa said she smelled smoke,” he said. “I looked out the front door and over the walkway downstairs and there was a lot of white smoke coming out of her (the neighbor’s) door.”
He ran down stairs as Escobar collected the children and gathered other items they might need.
“Her door was ajar so I opened it and I could see her through the smoke wearing her nightgown,” he said. “I grabbed some nearby water jugs and tried to put the fire out but couldn’t so I grabbed her and pulled her outside.”
By that time, he said, a few other neighbors were outside banging on doors alerting others of the quickly moving fire.
Yuba City Fire Chief Jesse Alexander said the reclining chair, side table and curtains in the woman’s apartment were well involved and fire was spreading to adjacent furniture.
“We were very fortunate to have no injuries or fatalities,” Alexander said, in an email. “This was in large part to Ceasar Dominguis, who smelled smoke and walked outside to witness smoke emanating from a unit below him. As he ran downstairs, he noticed the door was slightly open and the tenant in the unit appeared to be disoriented.”
Alexander said the department plans to acknowledge his actions but also cautioned people who might find themselves in a similar situation.
“Normally, we discourage individuals from entering structures that are compromised by fire; however, in this instance Mr. Dominguis’ actions potentially prevented a fatality,” Alexander said.
Dominguis is a long time Yuba City resident and lived at the same apartment complex in a different unit more than a decade ago and remembers the woman.
“Everybody who lives there knows her and she’s pretty cool,” he said. “I remember seeing her as a kid growing up -- she even has some of the same pictures in her window that she’s had there for many years.”