Tucson man praised for quick action in west side fire

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Two young girls are alive, thanks in large part to a neighbor who acted fast.

A fire on the west side late Monday night filled a home with smoke and knocked their mother unconscious.

But Tucsonan Jaime Velasco was able to save them.

A late night knock at the door alerted Jaime Velasco to danger next door, a fire.  His neighbor told him no one was home.

"You couldn't see anything," said Jaime Velasco.

So his next thought while they waited for firefighters to arrive was to hose down his house and prevent the fire from spreading.

That's when he heard screams.

"For me or anyone in my family it just would be snap, go right into do-what-you-have-to-do mode, you know," said Velasco

Two young girls ages 8 and 10 had a window open but couldn't get through the screen.

"I looked over and I could see them pushing on the screen and saying, 'Mom, what happened,'" said Velasco.

Velasco hopped over the six-foot wall between their homes, pulled off the screen and pulled the girls to safety.

"I walked them over there to the AC unit and then I ran back over here and that's when I jumped inside," said Velasco.

He went back to get their mother, unconscious inside.

"All that smoke, it just was so overwhelming I had to get out of there. I couldn't hack it," said Velasco.

He got the little girls to safety but he wasn't able to reach their mother.  At that point, all he could do was wait for the fire department.

"We had firefighters at the scene thanking him, becasue he is a real hero for what he did," said Captain Trish Tracy of the Tucson Fire Department.   "He risked his life to save those girls and he tried with all his power to save their mom as well."

Firefighers got the mother out and to the hospital.

He feels guilty he couldn't reach her.  Velasco is too modest to call himself a hero.

"I just heard two little babies and I just think that's what anyone would do," said Velasco.

But he admits, it's nice knowing he was able to help.

"It just fills you up," said Velasco.  "I felt real real good."

Velasco tells me he heard no smoke detectors during the rescue.

Tucson Fire stresses just how important it is to have working smoke detectors in your home and come up with an escape plan for you family, just in case.