Five teachers from Rosa Parks Elementary School grinned from ear-to-ear, holding their certificates of appreciation as family and friends took their photos in a San Francisco City Hall room Oct. 26. During the meeting, the San Francisco Fire Commission recognized Cecily Ina-Lee, Remi Nakamoto, Zachary Marlin, Ruben Guzman and Vincent Reyes, for rescuing people from a burning apartment building next to the school May 13.
The building is located at 10 Inca Lane in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood.
“I feel like as a teacher, as a firefighter, that’s our job to protect the people and because the fire was so close to us — I think any teacher would be willing to jump in,” Nakamoto, a kindergarten Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program teacher, told the Nichi Bei Weekly.
San Francisco Fire Deputy Chief of Operations Robert F. Postel told the audience the teachers made “multiple rescues” prior to the fire department arriving. He said the fire department rescued seven people from the building and there were no casualties. Fire station No. 5, which was assigned to the fire, was short staffed that day, due to a new officer training, he said.
Assistant Chief Ken Yee remarked that the teachers “made our job a lot easier and we appreciate all their heroic efforts.” Postel said Yee was the “incident commander” for the fire.
San Francisco Fire Commissioner Armie Morgan thanked the teachers for their “courageous efforts” in helping with the fire rescue.
Ina-Lee, a second grade JBBP teacher, told the Nichi Bei Weekly she was “surprised” about receiving a certificate of appreciation for helping to notify residents about the fire. She said she appreciates her colleagues and the firefighters, who “came out, did an amazing job of putting out the fire.”
“The pride that I have in my staff, my coworkers at Rosa Parks, is just immense because I knew once I asked one of my other coworkers (to) move all the kids away, like I knew they were going to be taken care of…,” she said.
Reyes, a first grade science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics teacher, told the Nichi Bei Weekly he was “very honored,” and said he appreciates the recognition. He simply wanted to “help people” that day.
Jenny Lam, the San Francisco Unified School District board president, expressed her pride and gratitude to the teachers, calling them “unsung heroes everyday.” She added that it was “a real privilege to share this moment with our educators and staff.”
If a similar fire incident happened, Reyes said he would help with fire rescue again.
“I give props to the firefighters because watching those flames come towards me is pretty scary,” he said.