TODAY   |  June 10, 2012

Teen saves couple from fire

TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe speaks to J.D. Tennapel, a Colorado teenager who received burns while helping an elderly couple escape a wildfire.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when eighth grader j.d. saw smoke from a brush fire near his home, he sprang into action. j.d. told his father to call 911, and then he himself hopped on an atv to go warn his neighbors. thanks to his heroic efforts, the neighbors were able to get to safety, and firefighters were alerted in time to save their homes. he is now recovering from second degree burns at colorado's delta county hospital, and his parents james and debra are by his side. good morning to all of you. thanks so much for being with us. j.d., let me start with you. how are you feeling this morning?

>> i'm very tired, but i'm feeling a lot better than i did a few days ago.

>> i'm sure. let's take you back to a couple of days ago. you were just finishing mowing your lawn. you see smoke down the road. without hesitation, you jump on your atv, and you head towards what you thought was a fire. were you worried that you were risking your life in any way going there?

>> i wasn't really worried about that at the time. all i was worried about was helping the neighbors, helping the people around my community. i wasn't really focused on myself. i was focused on getting them out safely because there was a huge fire and the wind was so bad i knew it was going to spread. so i wasn't focused on how bad that i could get hurt, i was focused on getting them out.

>> i understand that on your way there, while you were close to it, your atv starts to malfunction. you were getting dangerously close to the fire. you realized your skin was starting to burn. at that point, did you turn around, or what was going through your head at that point when you realized you were actually in danger?

>> i was actually after i went up and warned neighbors and got information. i was on my way back down. i saw my dad at the bottom of the road, and i didn't want him to come up through the flames in his truck because i knew his truck could blow up or something like that. and i had a really quick decision to make, either go through the flames and risk getting burnt or stay up there and wait for the fire to come to me, which would be bad too. i knew the police officers down the road would need to know the information i found out. so i decided so go through the flames. i was going as fast as i could so i could get through it, but then the oxygen level for my atv four-wheeler just died in the fire, and it started bogging down. and i was going probably about 15 miles an hour, and i looked to my right, and i see my skin just start to bubble up. it was just starting to burn. it was some of the worst pain i've ever had. but it was worth it because, if it could help save some lives.

>> you did.

>> i didn't want my dad to come up through it. so i just decided to go down. and risk it.

>> mom and dad , let me turn to you real quick. was it more pride, or was it more fear letting j.d. head towards that fire but knowing he was doing it for a great cause?

>> wow, i think j.d. just sprung into action. he saw smoke, and it was 911 and get to it because we have -- you know, live up in the trees and very dry this year in particular. and he just went for it. we were all scrambling to alert people and get shovels and head up the hill to see what we could do. so he just did what we all want to do is just help when there's an emergency.

>> he's definitely a hero in your town. j.d. and james and debra, we thank you so much. speedy recovery to you, j.d. thank you so much for being with us this morning.

>> no problem. thank you for