Uncle saves 8-year-old niece from house fire in Washington, hailed as hero

ABERDEEN, Wash. -- A young man from Aberdeen, Wash. is fighting the pain of serious burns after rushing back into a burning house to save his niece Thursday morning.

In an interview from his hospital bed, Derrick Byrd tells KOMO, he'd do it all over again.

The 20-year-old has second and third-degree burns on his face, back and arms. He was airlifted to a local hospital after a fire started in his home.

However Byrd says he wasn't worried about himself when the fire broke out, but about his niece, Mercedes, and nephews, Junior and Rory.

"Even though I got burnt," said Byrd. "I really didn't care, though. I'd rather get burnt than her [my niece]. She's young. She's still got a lot of stuff going for her. She's a good kid."

Byrd jumped into action to help his sister, Kayla, get the kids out of the second-floor window of the house.

"Kayla wanted to get the kids out so I ran downstairs even though I got burnt," said Byrd. "I started catching the kids. I caught Junior and I caught Baby Rory out of Kayla's window."

However, 8-year-old Mercedes was afraid to jump.

Byrd says when her mom fell off the roof, Mercedes fell back into the burning room.

"She was screaming my name," said Byrd. "So I wasn't just going to let her sit there. I wasn't going to let my niece die."

"I just ran up the stairs and pushed through the fire," he said. "I could feel it burning me. I got her and took my shirt off and put it around her face so she wouldn't breathe in any smoke and I just carried her out as fast as I could."

Their community is now calling him a hero.

"I can't say a hero," said Byrd. "I'd just say for my niece and nephews, I wasn't going to let them die."

Fire officials say they are still investigating the cause of the fire but it appears to have started inside the home, on the second floor.

"I'd do it again," said Byrd. "I really would. I don't care. I really would. I'd run back in there and do it again even if I got burnt worse or died."

Friends and neighbors have started a food, clothing and toy drive for the family after they lost most of their belongings in the fire.