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When the driver couldn’t hear that his pickup was on fire, the cop knew what to do next

A Fresno patrol officer saves an elderly man from his burning vehicle Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in downtown Fresno.
A Fresno patrol officer saves an elderly man from his burning vehicle Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in downtown Fresno. abriseno@fresnobee.com

Fresno police Officer Bernie Vizcarra was on a routine patrol Saturday evening in downtown Fresno when he noticed sparks and small flames erupting from beneath a blue Toyota pickup heading south on M Street.

His first thought? “Wow, that doesn’t look good.”

Vizcarra, who works in the southwest policing district, pulled the truck over south of Tulare Street about 5:45 p.m. and told the driver, Marcelo Sanchez, 74, that he needed to get out because the vehicle was on fire.

But Sanchez, who is hard of hearing, didn’t understand what Vizcarra was saying. At that point, Vizcarra said, he grabbed Sanchez and pulled him away from the pickup, seconds before they heard explosions from the engine and saw flames erupting.

Sanchez was on his way to southeast Fresno to baby-sit one of his eight grandchildren when he was pulled over.

“I smelled it,” Sanchez said, “but I didn’t know it was on fire.”

Fresno firefighters quickly put out the flames, but the pickup is totaled, he said.

Sanchez, a retired painter, says he is not sure how he will be able to afford another vehicle, but he added he had just bought a lottery ticket and hoped his luck might change for the better.

Andrea Figueroa Briseño: 559-441-6074, @_AndreaBriseno

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