A young uncle suffered second and third-degree burns all over his body after he rushed back inside a burning Washington home to rescue his niece from certain death.
Derrick Byrd may have suffered third and second degree all over his face, back, and arms, but the 20-year-old insists he’d do it all again if he had to.
The blaze erupted at the Byrd family home in Aberdeen in the early hours of Thursday morning, with six family members from three generations inside.
To calls of ‘fire, fire’ from the children upstairs, Byrd immediately sprang into action.
He initially ran outside of the home, catching his nephews Junior and Rory as they jumped from a second-floor window.
His sister, Kayla – the mother of the children – slipped and fell to the ground below, attempting to climb onto the roof, startling her eight-year-old daughter Mercedes who was set to jump from the window next.
Petrified, the young girl retreated back further into the blazing home.
‘She was screaming my name,’ Byrd said to KOMO. ‘So I wasn’t just going to let her sit there. I wasn’t going to let my niece die.’
Byrd ran back into the home, at which point it was nearly engulfed entirely by flames.
But the heroic uncle kept pushing on through the fire and pain until he found his niece crying on the floor in the smog of thick smoke, in the searing heat.
He took his shirt off, wrapped it around her face to shield her from the fumes, and then hoisted her into his arms, running as fast as he could down the stairs and out of the front door.
Speaking from his hospital bed at the Harborview Medical Center, with gauze covering his face, Byrd said he doesn’t regret going back inside to save Mercedes one bit.
‘Even though I got burnt, I really didn’t care,’ he said. ‘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.’
Byrd was airlifted to the hospital, along with Mercedes and six-year-old Junior. All three remain in hospital, being treated at the Harborview burns unit.
The 20-year-old has since been hailed a hero, but Byrd says he was doing what any other family member would do.
‘I can’t say a hero,’ he said. ‘I’d just say for my niece and nephews that I wasn’t going to let them die.
‘I would do it again,’ he continued. ‘I really would. I don’t care. I really would. I’d run back in there and do it again even if I got burnt worse or died.’
The family’s home appears to be a complete loss, with firefighters and police officers expressing their relief at the fact that nobody was killed – crediting Byrd as why.
Investigators say they aren’t yet sure what specifically caused the blaze but said it appeared to have started on the second floor.
Friends and neighbors have rallied around the family, organizing food, clothing, and toy drives to help the family, who appear to have lost almost everything but their lives.
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