Under Fire

Mike Estrada was supposed to be ordered away from a burning building by his superior. It was just one of many mistakes that put him in harm's way.

A weakened wall facade, combined with the pressure from water pounding down from above, meant that anyone working inside an area one and a half times the height of the building, which includes firefighter Mike Estrada (circled), was in danger.
Video stills courtesy of a San Francisco resident
A weakened wall facade, combined with the pressure from water pounding down from above, meant that anyone working inside an area one and a half times the height of the building, which includes firefighter Mike Estrada (circled), was in danger.
When the burning chunk of wall fell on Estrada, firefighters had gathered at the incident command post across the street.
Video stills courtesy of a San Francisco resident
When the burning chunk of wall fell on Estrada, firefighters had gathered at the incident command post across the street.

Mostly, Estrada is just grateful to be alive. When asked whether he knew he was in the collapse zone when the wall fell and crushed him, he answered yes at first, and then after some thought, changed his answer to no. The truth, he says, is that when you're staring into the maw of a burning building in the dark of morning after being yanked out of bed, when you're already exhausted from fighting a fire not four hours before, all you can do is hope that your training and your instincts will kick in fast — and if something goes amiss, that your peers and superiors will be there to get you in the right spot. Or, if you end up under a pile of burning debris, they'll pull you out and help put you back together again.

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