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Teen suffers burns trying to save neighbors from fire

12:25 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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"I was mowing my lawn, and I just got done mowing and I looked up and I saw black smoke and flames come up probably a quarter mile from our house. I knew there was just dozens of people who lived up there," JD said.

The flames were a quarter mile from JD's house. That's when he says his natural instincts kicked in.

"I went into my garage and got my ATV and went up there as fast as I could. I never knew this would happen," he says.

JD made a beeline toward the fire to notify as many of his neighbors as he could.

"I felt like it was my responsibility. I was the first person who saw the fire to make sure everybody knew what was going on. Everyone in that area, we don't know each other that well, but I felt like I needed to make sure everybody knew to evacuate or call 911," he said.

JD was determined to warn them. On the way to his neighbors' homes, the flames were growing, smoke was building and the fire was spreading.

"It was as fast as a man could jog is how fast the fire was ripping," said JD's father, James TenNapel.

"By the time I got back down the fire was so bad on both sides of the road that I had to debate to go back and risk getting burn or am I going to stay up and wait for the fire," JD said.

Even through all of the dark smoke, his decision was clear: he was going to head back to warn his father.

"He just told me from the hospital, 'Dad if I didn't come through the fire I knew you were gonna get in your truck and try to come find me,' and he knew his truck was going to be worse than that. So he just floored it and came through," James said.

"The flames were on both sides. It was pitch black, dark smoke. I was just trying to make it through and this was right when I was getting burned. My 4 wheel stopped. I was pretty much just going 10 mph through the flames getting burned like crazy," JD said.

In the process, the teen suffered second degree burns on his arms, legs and back, but even the burns couldn't slow his heroic day.

"He likes to go ATV down off the crick and there's kind of a narrow, hollow area down there. He knows there's an older person down there who he was trying to get to," James said.

When JD got through the smoke, paramedics immediately put him in an ambulance, but he had one final act of heroism left. He made sure the fire fighters knew about the elderly woman who was unable to get out of her home.

"He didn't get to her but he knew where and that she was home and what he needed to do," James said.

"My main concern was that the houses on both sides of the roads weren't going to get burned down with people in them. If they're going to get burned down, I was going to make sure the people were out," JD said.

The ultimate act of selflessness and this teen's dedication to his community saved lives.

"We were all put here on this earth to do something and I feel like I did what I had to do today and I don't really care if people think I'm a hero or not. I just did the right thing and had to sacrifice my body a little bit but I know that I hopefully saved a few lives," JD said.

(Copyright © 2012 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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