A longtime Vancouver firefighter is recovering from serious burns after trying to extinguish a burning vehicle linked to a Coquitlam shooting that exploded in Port Moody late last week.
The firefighter, identified as 18-year veteran Massimo Cerantola, was off duty at the time the fire broke out Friday afternoon in the 2200-block of Hope Street.
According to witnesses, Cerantola, who lives across the street, sprang into action and tried to douse the fire while ensuring no one was inside the vehicle.
The vehicle then exploded while he was close by, injuring him and sending shockwaves through the normally quiet neighbourhood. The blast was caught on video by several neighbours.
“He has extensive burns, some second-degree and a lot of third-degree burns,” Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry told Global News on Monday.
“He’s very fortunate, but I’m sure he’s in extreme pain right now and it’s going to be a long healing process.”
Fry confirmed Cerantola’s identity to Global News. She said he is normally based at a firehall in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood.
The chief said she was not surprised that he put himself in harm’s way even while off the job, just like many other first responders have.
“It’s something that we seem to have instinctually in our firefighters,” she said. “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.”
Port Moody police said on Saturday that the vehicle fire was ultimately extinguished after an innocent bystander with “serious injuries” was rushed to hospital, where he remains in stable condition.
The vehicle fire was discovered not long after Coquitlam RCMP said officers were called to the 1600-block of Chickadee Place shortly after 3:30 p.m. for reports of a shooting.
A man was found at the scene with non-life-threatening injuries and taken to hospital.
The burnt vehicle in Port Moody is believed to be the suspect vehicle in the Coquitlam shooting, police said.
Coquitlam RCMP said the shooting victim was known to police, but have not indicated that it is connected to the larger Lower Mainland gang conflict.
Neighbours on Monday called Cerantola a local hero while expressing shock and anger that their community was the scene of such violence.
“This is not a neighbourhood for gangsters to come and do things in,” Conrad Murrey said.
“My kids play on that street. Everybody’s kids play on that street. This is just next-level stupid. Take your gangster stuff elsewhere.”
Coquitlam RCMP are still looking for a second vehicle, a newer-model black Hyundai Santa Fe with the licence plate FL3-35K, believed to be linked to the case.
Investigators are also looking for witnesses or video from both locations around the time of the incidents.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 or Crime Stoppers if they wish to remain anonymous.
– With files from Simon Little