An unhoused man in Arizona has earned the title of “angel” from a woman whom he helped rescue from a burning apartment, alongside her children and pets.
As those at the center of the extraordinary story told it to CBS News, Joe Hollins and his wife have been experiencing homelessness and happened to be camped out near an apartment which caught fire early on Thursday in Phoenix. Hollins became aware of the emergency when he heard screams coming from the apartment.
“All I see is a lady pull open the window, and she’s screaming, ‘Please help me, please help me,’” he recalled in an interview which CBS aired over the weekend.
Hollins immediately ran up to the window of the woman, Claudia Jimenez. According to Jimenez, the blaze was blocking the front way out of her apartment, and she was trapped inside with her two daughters and two dogs as flames and smoke spread throughout the place.
So Hollins told Jimenez to drop her children to him, according to what Jimenez said to CBS.
“He was like, ‘Yes, throw your daughters out. I’m going to catch them, I’m going to get them’,” Jimenez recounted to the network.
Jimenez first dropped her one-year-old, Valerie. She then did the same with her eight-year-old, Natalie, and the family’s two dogs. One by one, Hollins safely caught them.
Then, when it was time for her to leap out the window and away from danger, fear gripped Jimenez and she froze in place, she and Hollins recalled.
“She was scared she was going to fall,” Hollins told CBS. “I was like, ‘I got you, don’t worry’.”
Trusting Hollins with herself as she had done with her girls and her pets, Jimenez soon jumped and landed safely in his arms.
Local firefighters later arrived to extinguish the flames consuming the apartment. Jimenez and others in the apartment building lost virtually all of their possessions in the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.
Nonetheless, community members have been trying to raise money and collect donations for Jimenez, her loved ones and other victims of the fire.
Jimenez, meanwhile, was just grateful that she and her family were able to walk away from the fire physically unharmed.
A teary-eyed Jimenez told CBS that she would “for ever be thankful” for Hollins’s intervention in her hour of need.
“He was my angel,” Jimenez said to CBS. “Because of him, we’re here. We’re alive and my daughters are safe.”
Hollins said that he only listened to an instinct everyone has in them when he stepped up for his neighbors.
“Anybody would,” Hollins said. “Those are children [who were with Jimenez].”
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