A Southern California man is lucky to be alive after he ran into his home, which was completely engulfed with flames, to rescue his beloved pet.
Jose Guzman tells PEOPLE that he has no regrets about heading into the massive multi-house blaze in Pala, California, to save his family’s 2-year-old blue nose pit bull named Gabanna.
“I knew something could’ve happened to me or both of us, but it didn’t go through my mind at the time,” Jose told PEOPLE. “That dog is part of my family. She’s been with us through downs and ups and I couldn’t leave her there. I would do it again if I had to; I would do it for anybody in my family.”
Jose’s decision to risk his life has been praised by dog-lovers around the world after a video of the dramatic rescue went viral.
On Sunday, Jose was attending a barbeque at his parents’ house with his fiancée Adriana Lopez and their three girls, Yvette, 2, Hazel, 4, and Yetzel, 6, when he was alerted of a fire in his neighborhood.
“I didn’t think it was mine because we had just left the house about an hour ago, but I decided to get in my truck and drive over there,” Jose explained.
When he arrived, Jose realized that the fire had started at his neighbor’s house, but by that time, his home was engulfed in flames too. It was at that time that Jose also noticed the firefighters had run out of water due to the severity of the fire and required assistance from nearby stations.
Although his family was safe, Jose knew Gabanna was inside the home, which he said he moved into just two months ago. “I wasn’t gonna let her die like that,” he explained.
Without thinking, the father of three rushed past the firefighters and straight into the blazing home to rescue his dog. Jose said he found his pet hiding in the bathroom — the only room that wasn’t on fire in the home — curled up in a ball under the toilet.
“I ran through the curtain of fire and made my way through the smoke to the back of the house, where I had her chained up,” he said. “It was hard for me to get her leash unhooked, but I managed to get her loose and we both ran out towards the driveway.”
The dramatic moment was captured on film by his landlord’s son-in-law, Adam Guzman, who is not related to Jose. In the footage, Jose can be seen running in, despite protests from the firefighters. Within moments, Jose comes running out behind Gabanna, to everyone’s dismay.
Adam said watching the scene unfold was “very emotional,” as he did not expect Jose to make it out of the blaze.
“I thought he’s a goner. The flames were hot and I couldn’t imagine running through those flames. That was it, that was the last time I’d see him,” he told PEOPLE. “When he came running out with the dog, it was a big relief that he was alive and brought out the dog at the same time.”
Jose was, however, injured and suffered second-degree burns to his face, right side, arm, and left ear, which he said were healing well. Gabanna also experienced burns to her nose and paw, and though she’s still a bit shaken up, she is expected to be fine.
Meanwhile, their home, possessions, and two cars were completely lost in the fire.
In the wake of the blaze, which totally destroyed the two homes and damaged an adjacent two, Jose and his family has been living with his sister Roxana Martinez, who also set up a GoFundMe page to try to help them out.
The campaign has since raised over $8,300 and Roxana said the page will be updated with new photos from the aftermath of their home by this weekend.
As for Jose’s fiancée and sister, they both told PEOPLE they weren’t shocked by his heroic actions.
“He’s that person that would do that for anybody,” said Adriana. “He’s a loving dad, a loving son, a loving brother.”
“This is not out of character for him, this is something that he would do. He’s always been very spontaneous and very caring, and he would give his life for anyone,” sister Roxana added.
Those interested in donating to help the Guzman family recover from the fire can do so here.