CBSN

Firefighter takes big risk to save great-grandmother in fire

Firefighter Danny Lovato removed his mask to help great-grandmother Phyllis Terrell inside a burning building in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2016.

WUSA-TV

WASHINGTON -- A Washington, D.C., firefighter gave his oxygen mask to a great-grandmother during her rescue from a burning building Thursday, CBS affiliate WUSA-TV reports.

Firefighter Danny Lovato and 65-year-old Phyllis Terrell are recovering.

When firefighters arrived at the burning apartment building, police officers had already evacuated the residents from the lower floors. But Terrell was hanging out of her window, trapped on the third floor with heavy smoke rolling out.

"She said it was just filled with smoke; she couldn't see," said her granddaughter, Tyricka Terrell.

Lovato threw a ladder against the side of the building and tried to convince the great-grandmother to hold on.

"She said she was about to jump off, and she would have died right there," said her granddaughter.

Lieutenant Dan White and firefighter Joshua Elie raced inside.

"We fought our way through everything, and we got to her," said Elie.

But Terrell could not breathe any more of the toxic, superheated air, and it was too risky to take her down the ladder, so Lovato pulled off his oxygen mask and handed it to Terrell. He then gave his air tank to the firefighters inside.

While White and Elie took Terrell down the stairs, Lovato made his way down the ladder, his windpipe choked with soot and burned by the heat.

"I just love the firefighter who saved her," said Tyricka Terrell. "Keep him in my prayers too. And my grandma."

Lovato's wife Adrian is at his side at the hospital. Doctors have taken a breathing tube out of his throat, and he's talking. They hope to take him out of the ICU soon.

Phyllis Terrell was in serious condition, but Ed Smith of the firefighter's union said she's sitting up and singing the praises of the man who saved her.