Fire reveals a local hero: Joe Ferraro

Joe Ferraro

Joe Ferraro of Seal Beach seems to be about the only one surprised he is being called a hero.

Ferraro, 52, is an affable, easygoing man whom friends and neighbors say, really cares about people.

“It is people like Joe Ferraro who selflessly put the welfare of his neighbor before his own personal safety that makes Seal Beach the great community that it is,” said Ferraro’s District 1 Seal Beach City Councilwoman Ellery Deaton.

On Saturday morning, about 8 a.m., Ferraro’s wife Samantha stirred him as he slumbered when she smelled smoke.

Ferraro said he was definitely  not wearing his superhero uniform.

In fact, he said he was dressed only in his birthday suit. Stumbling around his home, he peered out a window and saw his neighbor’s 200-block Eighth Street second story apartment filling with thick smoke from a fire. He quickly put on a few items of clothing and sprang into action.

Apparently unconcerned about the burning danger, he went into his neighbor Joanie Livingston’s apartment and started looking for her to make sure she was safe. In the meantime, he had grabbed a fire extinguisher and started to put out the fire.

He was able to bring the blaze for the most part under control before firefighters arrived on the scene. It was lucky for Ferraro they arrived when they did. By the time he had checked the residence and found there was no one on the site, he had already inhaled a bit of the smoke that was billowing around the apartment.

He started to head outside and overcome by the fumes and smoke, he collapsed near the door.

“I guess I passed out from breathing smoke and inhaling the dust from the fire extinguisher,” Ferraro said. “After knocking down the fire I thought to myself, I might want to get a breath of fresh air. I made it just outside and went down.”

Ferraro said he woke up to a fireman and a police officer yelling ‘Man down.’ I was thinking that I had searched all the rooms. Who’s the man that I missed?”

Then he realized it was him they were talking about. They had dragged him outdoors to resuscitate him. About that time, Bill Ayres, another nearby neighbor, was returning from a bike ride along the San Gabriel River trail.

“I spoke with one of the fire fighters present and he said Joe was the real hero for he basically put out the fire before the fire trucks arrived and went into the dwelling looking for Joanie,” Ayres said. “The firefighter did not know Joe’s name but he was real proud of him as I am sure the rest of our friends and neighbors are also proud and thankful for him.

“The firefighter said that Joe was overcome by smoke and I hope he comes out of this OK. The firefighter told me that the people living around here are really a tight group as he witnessed them helping each other. I can really agree on this statement.”

The fire, which Orange County Fire Authorities said caused about $20,000 in damage, may have been started by a magnifying glass.

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