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Homeless man hailed as hero for rescuing family from apartment fire: "He was an angel"

Arizona man rescues family from fire
Man hailed as hero for rescuing Arizona family from apartment fire 02:34

Phoenix mom Claudia Jimenez woke up Thursday morning to find flames ripping through her apartment. 

With the front door blocked by the blaze, she and her two young daughters were trapped, and all she could do was call for help. 

"I opened my window and I started yelling 'Please, someone help me, there's a fire, I can't get out through the front, I need someone to help me," Jiminez told CBS News. 

Even before the firefighters arrived, help came from an unlikely place. Joe Hollins, who is homeless, and his wife were camped out near Jiminez's apartment, and when they heard the screams, he ran to help.

"All I see is a lady pull open the window and she's screaming 'Please help me, please help me,'" Hollins said. 

Hollis got under the window, Jiminez said, and told her to drop her two children to him. 

"He was right underneath and he was like 'Yes, throw your daughters out, I'm going to catch them, I'm going to get them," Jiminez recalled. 

First went one-year-old Valerie. Next up was eight-year-old Natalie. Then, Jiminez threw out the family's two dogs. Hollis safely caught each and every one of them, but when it was her turn, Jiminez froze. 

"She didn't want to come at first. She was scared she was going to fall," Hollins said. "I was like 'I got you. Don't worry.'" 

Jiminez finally made the jump and landed safely in Hollins' arms. The fire department soon arrived to fight back the flames, and as things calmed down, the grateful family said they owe Hollins their lives. 

"I will forever be thankful to him, you know? Like I said, to me he was an angel," Jiminez said. "Because of him we're here, we're alive and my daughters are safe." 

Hollins wouldn't listen to the praise, though: He said anyone would do the same. 

"Those are children," he said. 

While Jiminez and her family are safe, they lost everything, as did many other residents of the building. Community members are now raising money to support the survivors. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

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