Fresno man runs back into burning building to save ... a rack of ribs

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A mother and child climbed out a window to escape the flames.

Windows shattered, and plumes of smoke climbed into the night sky.

With his family safe, Robert Wright’s attention turned to his grumbling stomach, and then back to the burning apartment — what about the ribs, man?

“First thing, I got my kids, and I thought about my ribs. Like, I didn’t want my ribs to burn and stuff because I take pride in what I do, man” Wright told KMPH, hoisting a long rack of ribs in his right hand like a giant, meaty scroll. 

In a video that has quickly gone viral, the Fresno resident gave an adrenaline-filled interview about his harrowing effort to rescue his tender late-night snack while his neighbor’s apartment burned and residents were forced to flee.

Fresno fire officials said they were called to a fire about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in a six-unit apartment complex off Cedar and Bullard avenues and found a unit engulfed in flames. Wright was in a neighboring apartment, and he and his family were among seven people displaced because of the damage, officials said. The cause of the blaze has not been determined.

“It’s like three o’clock in the morning; I was hungry, man,” Wright said. “Put the ribs on there, man, some hot links and stuff. We got it going and stuff, but I looked over, the fire was bursting out. Like, man, this is crazy, man. … It was frantic.”

Aside from inhaling a little smoke, Wright said he and his family emerged unscathed. Since his interview went viral, Fresno fire officials have been fielding calls about Wright and the incident.

“From what we could tell, the rib guy had no responsibility in the fire,” Fire Department spokesman Pete Martinez said. “He just happened to be cooking ribs at the time, which is phenomenal.”

A local radio station asked its listeners Wednesday what would be the one thing they would save from their burning home, Martinez chuckled. For the record, he said, firefighters do not encourage people to rush into burning buildings — that’s their job.

“Nothing is worth losing your life over,” Martinez said. “No matter how delicious those ribs are, you can make ‘em again.”

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.


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