ABERDEEN, Wash. (KOMO/CNN) - A 20-year-old man in Washington state is fighting the pain of serious burns after he rushed back into a burning house to save his 8-year-old niece.
Even with gauze covering his face, arms and back, 20-year-old Derrick Byrd wants you to know how special his niece, 8-year-old Mercedes, and nephews, Junior and Rory, are. The uncle suffered second- and third-degree burns saving Mercedes when a fire broke out at the family’s home.
"Even though I got burnt, I really didn't care though. 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 said.
Alongside his sister and the kids’ mother, Byrd jumped into action Thursday morning.
"I ran down the stairs, even though I got burnt, started catching the kids. I caught Junior, and I caught baby Rory out the window,” Byrd said.
But Mercedes was afraid to jump, and when her mom fell off the roof, the little girl retreated into the burning room.
"She was screaming my name, so I wasn't going to let her just sit there. I wasn't going to let my niece die. I 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. I just carried her out as fast as I could,” Byrd said.
After the rescue, Byrd, Mercedes and Junior were all airlifted to the hospital.
The 20-year-old is now being hailed as a hero, but from his hospital bed, he says it was simply love that fueled him.
"I can't say a hero. I'd just say I care for my niece and nephews. I wasn't going to let them die,” Byrd said. "I'd do it again. 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 house appears to be a total loss, with firefighters and police just thankful no one died. Friends and neighbors started a food, clothing and food drive for the family.
Fire investigators say they do not know the cause of the fire, but it appears to have started inside on the second floor.