Flames were bearing down on him as a wildfire closed in quickly, but 15-year-old J.D. TenNapel refused to leave before he could warn his elderly neighbors.
Trapped in a growing Colorado wildfire, TenNapel could see flames 100 feet high closing in on his Cedaredge neighborhood. Knowing the fire could trap his elderly neighbors, TenNapel hopped onto his ATV and drove directly into the flames to warn them, Huffington Post reported.
He ended up suffering second degree burns, but TenNapel was able to get his neighbors out in time.
“[J.D.] went to every door he could, and he was coming back and the fire was coming over the road, and I saw his headlights,” J.D.’s father, James TenNapel, told KKCO 11 News.
Even after he was put in an ambulance, the eighth grader still had his mind on helping others. He notified paramedics of a house set away from the road where an elderly person lived, one he wasn’t able to reach. Because of his description firefighters were able to locate the woman and get her out just as her barn was burning to the ground, KKCO 11 News reported.
Despite his pain, TenNapel is still thinking about others affected by the fire.
“It’s hard to sleep because I keep waking up thinking about how bad it could have been,” he told The Daily Sentinel in nearby Grand Junction, Colo. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”
The Colorado wildfires have spread rapidly in recent days, growing to 14,000 acres from 8,000 acres in a matter of days and forcing a number of evacuations. A crew of 250 firefighters has been working to quell the flames, aided by air tankers and helicopters. Officials said the fight has been hampered by other wildfires in the region.