CBS 2 - December 27, 2011NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A holiday tragedy was averted thanks to the quick thinking and heroic actions of off-duty firefighter Steven Carl on Christmas night.
Neighbors watched in horror as flames engulfed a two-story house on Atlantic Ave on Staten Island. Carl was coming home from a Christmas visit at his parents' house and saw the flames.
"When I turned down the block I saw fire had blown out the windows of a private dwelling. I saw a lady in a nightgown with her face burnt on the front lawn screaming that her babies were inside," Carl told CBS 2's Mark Morgan.
Carl ran into the backyard, where witnesses said the fire was less intense. He put a ladder up to a balcony and began to climb. But the ladder gave out and left Carl dangling from the balcony.
"As I was ascending the ladder I reached them, and the ladder was old it gave out and fell. I was hanging on the balcony and a neighbor was able to come up and put the ladder up. It was just able to touch the bottom of the balcony, and I helped the two people down the balcony to safety," he said.
The neighbor who helped Carl rescue the elderly couple was Jacob Joyce. Joyce had vaulted over the backyard fence to aid in the rescue effort. A neighbor described the culmination of the rescue attempt.
"They slowly came down the ladder, while him and another guy held the ladder, they slowly walked down that ladder and came out of the home," he said.
Despite saving two lives Carl remained humble and shrugged off the label of "hero."
"I was in the right place at the right time. I'm just glad I was able to help them out because they were in a bad spot," he said.