Pay It Forward: Brave worker puts out school fire

© CBS 5

A Valley teacher is paying it forward to a woman who stopped a fire blazing in the school and later learned it isn't the first fire she's been faced with.

Elizabeth Poppen, a history teacher at Sky Middle School, was in the middle of class when suddenly the fire alarm blared through the speakers.

Smoke was billowing from the boy's bathroom, and the glow of flames lit the doorway.

But as Poppen and other teachers got the kids to safety, another woman grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran straight into harm's way.

"She saved the building," Poppen said.

Connie Herrera is a maintenance worker at the school. She knew if they waited for firefighters, the whole school could be lost. Her biggest fear was that a child could still be trapped inside.

"I went in and made sure there was no kids in there, passed out or anything," Herrera said.

Herrera had to get on the ground to see and ultimately douse the flames, thinking only of the kids and forgetting she has severe asthma.

"It hit me, and the smoke went right into my lungs," Herrera said.

After she saved the school, paramedics saved her.

Poppen paid it forward to Herrera for her selflessness and sacrifice.

"It's just part of the job to take care of everybody," Herrera said.

What few people at the school knew is that just months earlier, Herrera and her family were forced from their home by a devastating fire.

"You can't replace baby pictures and stuff like that of my daughters," Herrera said.

It took months to make her home livable again, and when flames threatened a second time at her home away from home, Herrera held the line.

"I didn't do nothing, I just did my job, like you're supposed to. I gave it 100 percent," Herrera said.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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