Derrick Byrd of Aberdeen, Wash., spoke from his hospital bed with gauze on his face, hands, arms, and back about his life-saving action.
On Thursday morning, a fire broke out at his home and his eight-year-old niece, Mercedes, along with his two nephews, Junior and Rory, were trapped inside on the second floor. According to Byrd, he and his sister, Kayla, were able to catch the two boys after they leapt from an upstairs window, but Mercedes was too afraid to make the jump.
"She was screaming my name," Byrd told KOMO. "So, I wasn't going to let her sit there. I wasn't going to let my niece die."
He continued: "I just ran up the stairs and pushed through the fire. I could feel it burning me. I got her and took my shirt off and put it around her face so she wouldn't breath in any smoke. And I just carried her out as fast as I could."
After escaping the burning home with his niece, Byrd was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, along with Mercedes and six-year-old Junior.
"I'd run back in there and do it again, even if I got burnt worse or died," Byrd told the outlet. "Even though I got burnt, I really didn't care. I'd rather get burnt than her. She's young. She's still got a lot of stuff going for her. She's a good kid."
Firefighters and police say that while the home appears to be a total loss, they're thankful that no one died. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it is believed to have originated upstairs.
Friends and neighbors have started a food, clothing, and toy drive to help the family, who has lost nearly everything.
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