Hero with a ladder honored for helping save families from Bradenton apartment fire

Walter Rivas said he thought of his family when he rescued a group of children and their parents from their burning apartment last month.

The father of two is being hailed a hero by Southern Manatee Fire Rescue, and Thursday evening, they recognized Rivas for his courageous actions.

Fire ripped through Mira Lagos apartments in Bradenton early Jan. 20. Rivas was on his way to work when he saw flames. He immediately turned his truck around, got his ladder from home, and came back to help people get out.

“The apartment was already filled with smoke. It occurred to me to come back to the house quickly and retrieve it. And I took it quickly to the apartment,” Rivas told FOX 13 through a translator. “With the other apartments, I started knocking on them. Knocking, to have them come out.”

Thanks to the efforts of Rivas and other residents, 20 people escaped with injuries.

PREVIOUS: Passerby goes home to get ladder, returns to rescue residents from apartment fire

Rivas said he knew he had to help when he saw children on a second-story balcony unable to get down.

Fire Chief Brian Gorski described Rivas as a selfless man who didn't want the attention but deserved recognition.

"If he didn't do that we would have fatalities or injuries and fatalities," said Gorski.