A vacation turned rescue mission. On May 13, Palm Springs firefighter Cody Ayotte was enjoying time with family in Oceanside when a dumpster fire caught his eye.
"Adrenaline kicked in as soon as I saw that hand and I just wanted to get him out," said Ayotte.
A bystander filmed Ayotte as he found a homeless man stuck unconscious under burning debris in a dumpster. Within a matter of seconds, he pulled the man out to safety. The fire was growing fast and started to burn part of the man's jacket.
"As soon as I saw that hand, you know, you just go to work. You know, it was almost like I was back at work. You know, nothing else mattered at that time," said Ayotte. "Had I not seen his hand, you know, I don't know, he could have suffered severe third-degree burns… Ultimately, he could have died."
The homeless man quickly left after the rescue. Ayotte put out the fire using water from nearby surfers before Oceanside firefighters got to the scene.
"I'm just glad he's okay. So wherever he went, I'm sure he's doing much better than he was in that situation," said Ayotte.
All the while his family, including his 2 young daughters, watched the rescue happen.
"She was you know, I could hear her in the background saying, 'No daddy don't get hurt!'" said Ayotte.
He did not ask for any recognition because, in his eyes, he was only doing the right thing.
"I absolutely would not call myself a hero... It's just something that we do as firemen and public safety," said Ayotte.
Captain Nathan Gunkel with Palm Springs Fire Department has worked with Ayotte before.
"Not surprised, but proud... Just like he does here at work, he does the same on his day off," said Gunkel. "It's not a job. It's a calling. I hope he, you know, continues to lead by example and people see what he did and they become better humans too."
The Palm Springs Fire Foundation posted the video of the rescue on their Instagram, writing that the engineer "noticed what appeared to be a hand sticking out from the flames. He sprang into action and saved a homeless man who was sleeping in the dumpster. The man’s shirt was partially on fire while he was getting him out."
The post called the rescuer, Cody Ayotte, "a person of action who cares for his neighbors both on and off duty. Cody Ayotte is truly 'Beyond the Badge.'"