2012 Hometown Hero

Community Volunteer Awards
2012 Honorees
Jerry Cisco and Sam McDonald
Jerry Cisco and Sam McDonald

Hometown Hero

Jerry Cisco and Sam McDonald

It's not every day you get to meet a real hometown hero, but today's your lucky day. Today you get to meet two. Sam McDonald and Jerry Cisco are rare breeds in more ways than one. For starters, they are both third generation Rancho Cordovans. Their grandparents lived here, their parents grew up here, and now they are both married and have started their own lives here. 

Sam is an Army Reservist and some of the training he received from the US Army probably played into this Hometown Hero story. 

Jerry is a Sprint car driver, so you would think he is an adrenaline junkie. But he told us he has never been so scared as the day he found himself walking into a fire.

It started last April when Sam and Jessica were having a quiet night at home on Gadsten Way. Jessica was tapping on her computer and Sam was watching television. The window was open to allow in the spring night air when the couple heard what they thought was fireworks.

They thought nothing of it at first, but the crackling campfire noise got their attention. They peered out the window to discover a house on fire across the field from where they live.

Meanwhile, Jerry was driving home after helping his parents with their harness-racing horses. The smoke coming from a house on Queenwood caught his attention, too.

Sam sprang into action and dialed 911 to report a house on fire on Queenwood Way. His shoes were on in a flash and the next thing he remembers is running as fast as he could down the street toward the growing flames.

Meanwhile, Jerry was also dialing 911, had pulled over and run up to the house billowing black smoke. He said he found Gloria Thomas wandering in shock and heading back into the burning house. He followed her in and brought her out.
He headed to his car to look for a flashlight and saw Gloria head back into the house. He entered for a second time and brought her out, pleading with her to stay calm while he retrieved a flashlight.

She said her husband was inside and headed into the house once again. For a third time, Jerry headed in to the burning house, to bring Gloria to safety once and for all.  
Meanwhile, Sam McDonald had arrived on the scene. He saw an elderly woman stumbling through the smoke.  

"Is anybody else in the house?" Sam pleaded. The woman, in shock, said nothing.

That's when he heard a moaning, low volume scream come from inside the house.  

Sam stepped into the smoke, which was pouring from the home, yelling, "where are you, where are you?" He was about to step from the smoke-filled garage and into the house when from a corner near the door, he heard a faint voice.

Moving through the dark, Sam located Robert Thomas. He grabbed an arm and a leg and began to pull when he realized Mr. Thomas had no use of his legs. He suddenly recalled this elderly neighbor, a large man, seated in a wheelchair in the front, playing with his dogs... and knew he would need help.

It was then that Sam realized a police officer had arrived at the same spot. Through the smoke they said nothing, nodded at each other, grabbed an arm and a leg each, and dragged him to safety.

Sam recalled that as soon as they cleared the garage, paramedics were at the ready and the victim was on a gurney and in safe hands.

How much time had passed? Sam said it felt as if only 15 seconds had elapsed from start to finish.

But it must have been more, because in the meantime, the street had filled with smoke and with people. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were everywhere and firefighters were scaling the house to put out the flames.  

Sam said he wasn't thinking too much as he followed his instincts to help despite the danger. He said he remembers making a decision to "hope for the best and expect the worst."  

"I sort of try to live my life that way," he said.

Jerry said people consider him to be a daredevil race car driver, but he didn't sleep for three nights after the fire incident. "You do what you have to do, but I hope I never have to do that again."

So how do you know you will be able to run into a burning building to save a life? Sam knows because he did it. So does Jerry. 

Sam credits his military training for quick reactions and confidence in his instincts. He credits his parents - Jim and Jeri - for raising him to be the kind of person who does this sort of thing.

Jerry said he doesn't feel like a hero, and was doing what he thinks anybody should do for another human being. "For me, the real reward is that those people are alive," he said.

Sam and Jerry were nominated for this award by an organization called VIVA: Volunteers in Victims Assistance, who said both showed uncommon courage and selflessness in charging in to help their elderly neighbors.

They also singled out Rancho Cordova Police Officers Chris Baker and Glen Barawed for what they called "heroic assistance."

Sam and Jerry, you are heroic volunteers. The Cordova Community Council does not award Hometown Hero awards each year, which makes your award extra special. We join your families, your neighbors, and the entire community of Rancho Cordova in congratulating you both on a job well done in the face of great personal danger. You are a credit to us all.
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