Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old who arrived by boat in Spain in 2017 and has been making a meagre living selling jewellery on Denia's sea front, saved the life of Alex Caudeli in early December.
He was walking down a street in Denia on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast when he heard screams and saw smoke pouring from a first-floor window.
He climbed the iron bars of the front door before entering the burning apartment from the balcony, and then emerged with the man who uses a walker slung over his shoulder, carrying him down a ladder that had been set up by a neighbour.
The dramatic rescue was caught on camer by neighbour Roberta Etter
Denia city hall quickly asked Spain's central government to give Sow a residents permit, a request backed by nearly 90,000 people who signed a petition hailing him as a “model citizen”.
Spain's labour and immigration ministry said last Friday that it had granted Sow residency in recognition of his “act of courage and service to the community”.
After the rescue, Sow told The Local that he sleeps beside his partner and eight-month-old daughter on a mattress on the floor seaside town of Gandia, and travels 40 kilometres (25 miles) by bus every day to Denia to sell bracelets and necklaces on the streets, a common job for undocumented migrants in Spain.
- Could street hawker hero be rewarded with Spanish residency and a right to work?
- 'I may be poor but I have a heart': Costa Blanca's street hawker tells of saving man from building
- 'Thank you, you're a hero': Costa Blanca man saved from burning building by mystery street seller
Gorgui with his girlfriend and their 7-month old daughter in Denia. Photo: Roberta Etter
“It's true that I am poor, that I don't have money but I have a heart,” he told The Local. “I have a heart that wants to help people and I knew I could save him.”
Writing about the rescue in an appeal for funds launched on Go Fund Me this week, Caudeli said: “Not all heroes wear capes and Gorgui is the example of that. Thanks to him, I'm alive.”
He explained about his mobility issues and said that he was unable to escape from his home if not for a miracle.
“And in this case, my miracle had a name: Gorgui Lamine Sow, a 20-year-old Senegalese who did not hesitate to put his life at risk to save mine and that of my puppy,” he wrote.