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‘I Just Wanted to Help Other People’: Rochester Teens Hailed as Heroes, Honored by City Council After Saving Family from House Fire

A pair of  quick-thinking young Black teens in Rochester, New York are being cheered for their heroics after breaking down a door and saving a family of five from a house fire earlier this month.

“They were trying to get stuff out of the house [and] we were like, ‘no, you don’t have any time to get anything out of the house, you just need to get out of the house,’ and go because I don’t want none of you all to get burnt or nothing,” Nate Williams told Rochester First of the harrowing August 14 incident. “I felt like I wouldn’t want my family in a similar situation and i just wanted to help other people.”

Teens Save Family from Fire

Cousins Darius Dillard (third from left) and Nate Williams (third from right) were honored by Rochester Mayor Lovely Williams and the city fire department for their heroism. (Photo: Rochester First / video screenshot)

Williams’ cousin, Darius Dillard, was right there by his side to make sure the family made it to safety 

“I was relieved,” said Dillard. “That’s the first thing that came to my mind because the family made it out safely. I made it out, my cousin, everyone made it out of there safely. That’s all that really mattered, honestly.”

The teens admit they didn’t know the family “from a can of paint” but didn’t hesitate to jump into action when they saw smoke billowing from the second floor of the home on Emerson Drive. As their uncle dialed 911, the young men sprinted across the street and kicked in the door to find the unsuspecting family inside. 

“Downstairs it was clear because they didn’t even know it was upstairs only, but when we went upstairs it was dark, you couldn’t see, the smoke, once it got in your lungs, it was hard, we could have passed out,” Dillard recalled of the rescue. 

Dillard and Williams attempted to put out the blaze themselves, but the thick smoke forced the pair back downstairs, Rochester First reported. That’s when the first fire crew arrived.

In the end, four children and one adult were rescued from the fire. The family is now receiving assistance from the American Red Cross.

Fire officials commended Dillard and Williams’ on their bravery, but warned them to never try putting out a fire again themselves. Still, he hoped the two might one day consider a career in firefigthing.

“Job well done [but] please don’t do it again,” said RFD battalion chief David Compton. “And sign up for our [civil service exam]. I’d love to see the two of them sign up and take our exam and do well.”

The two young men were recently honored by Mayor Lovely Warren and the city fire department during a city council meeting, officially declaring August 14 “Darius Dillard and Nate Williams Day” in Rochester.

Dillard and Williams were humbled by the recognition and said they plan to continue working in the spirit of service.

“I’m just going to keep living up to it, and keep moving forward and I hope that family can get back into their house,” Williams told WROC.

“We’re just regular kids growing up,” he added. “We’re trying to make Rochester a better place to live.”

Watch more in the video below.

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