CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Mario Gomez doesn’t want to be labeled a hero, but the people whose lives he may have saved are quick to call him that.
"I don't consider myself a hero,” Gomez said. “I thank God that I was here, and I'm glad that they're safe. That's all that matters."
He can thank his night owl nature in part as well. Gomez says he’s often up late at night just like he was around 3:00 a.m. Friday. That’s when he drove through a cloud of smoke along Leopard Street at the Churchill Square apartments. He knew something was wrong, so he went to check it out.
"When I pulled up here, this first apartment on the bottom, the door was open and I could see there was a big ball of fire in the kitchen-area,” he said.
Instead of calling 911 and waiting for help to arrive, Gomez says he grabbed a heavy flashlight and banged on every door of the eight unit building yelling that there was a fire. Resident Christina Casarez’s mother was woken up by the commotion.
"When she heard the banging, she came running up the hall,” Casarez said. “She told me, 'Tina we need to go. I think something's on fire.”
The Corpus Christi Fire Department said Monday that it was an accidental electrical fire that started in a first floor apartment and spread. Eight families lost their homes, but no one even suffered an injury let alone lost their life.
“We were so thankful that this guy drove by and saved us, because if it were mere seconds later there's no way we would have gotten out of the front door,” Casarez said.
Casarez and her mother were able to move into a different unit at the same complex. They were able to salvage some of their belongings, but they lost much more. All of the victims suffered some form of loss, but Gomez says they know what’s more important.
"They realize later that, hey look, we made it,” he said. “We lost everything, but we have our lives. They can always start over again."