A veteran Vancouver firefighter was honoured by Port Moody Fire Rescue last month for trying to extinguish a burning vehicle linked to a shooting, and sustaining serious burns in the process.
Confirmed Lt. Massimo Cerantola was off-duty when the fire broke out on March 25, 2022, on Port Moody’s Hope Street, near his home. He said he heard a “loud bang” from his backyard, heard “almost hysterical yelling,” and saw a black SUV engulfed in flames.
“I was relieved no one was hit actually at that point, but again, with what’s going on with the Lower Mainland with the gang conflict, I knew there was something not right,” he told Global News on Monday.
Cerantola said he checked to make sure no one was in the vehicle, grabbed a hose from a neighbour’s house, looked back at the vehicle and started seeing “orange and grey come at me.”
Off-duty Vancouver firefighter badly burned in Port Moody vehicle fire linked to shooting
The vehicle exploded in a blast caught on video by several neighbours. It was believed to be the suspect vehicle in a non-fatal shooting in neighbouring Coquitlam.
For a second, Cerantola said he thought he was dead.
“I opened up my eyes and my shirt was pretty much burned off,” he told Global News.
He said he was able to get up, direct a neighbour to keep his children inside and hose himself down before other firefighters arrived and attended to him.
Off-duty firefighter injured in Port Moody explosion
Cerantola sustained second- and third-degree burns to 41 per cent of his body, including his hands, arms, back, and face. He spent six weeks in the burn unit, came home for a month, then returned after developing an infection in his skull.
He said he began physiotherapy last August, returned to work in October on modified duties, and returned full-time to the trucks at the end of December.
Asked what made him dive into the dangerous scenario last spring, he said running is “not what we do.”
“That’s what first responders do. We’re there to help whether we’re getting paid or not,” he said.
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Cerantola received the Medal of Merit at the Port Moody fire hall exactly one year later, with Port Moody Fire Rescue stating that his “selfless actions that day protected his neighbours.”
“Thank you Massimo for protecting our community and you are a true Hero!” reads a Facebook post from the fire department.
Last March, Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry applauded Cerantola’s intervention, but said she was not surprised by it.
“It’s something that we seem to have instinctually in our firefighters,” she told Global News at the time.
“Anytime people are looking for help, or they see something, they always rush in to do what they can. It’s an everyday-hero kind of circumstance.”
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Cerantola said Monday he doesn’t consider himself a hero and has “an issue” with the word.
“I’m not a hero,” he said. “I don’t think any of the people I work with consider themselves heroes as well. We’re just there to help.”
He said he believes the incident happened for a reason, even though he’s not sure what that reason is yet.
“Maybe one day I’ll figure it out … hopefully everyone learns a lesson from it, from burning cars, to stay away.”
Cerantola said he has been to countless vehicle fires without ever seeing one explode the way it did on March 25 last year.
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