GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On a cold December night, Gulfport resident Joanne Mouring awoke to find her house on fire. Surrounded by flames and choking on smoke, the 71-year-old was trapped in an inferno. She was able to call for help, but could not leave her bedroom.
Luckily, a group of firefighters were responding to an accident nearby, and were able to reach her quickly.
"We knew we had to act quick. Really the first thought in your mind is how can you get to them?" said Gulfport Firefighter Neil Clark.
The firefighters were on scene within minutes, but the water hose line was not yet set up. Firefighters use the water line to provide protection as they enter a burning building. Time was running out for Mouring who was suffocating from the smoke.
"Fire doubles every 30 seconds. When you're talking about the heat banking down on the victim; once it gets over 500 degrees, it just cooks your lungs," said Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt.
"We did a risk benefit assessment, and decided to go in with a Rescue 49 group without a hose line so we could save time and get her out," said Gulfport Firefighter Greg Griffin.
Three responders- Greg Griffin, Eric Dedeaux and Neil Clark- charged into the home without the water line, and saved Mouring.
"That was a high danger move and something that we don't normally recommend they do. That's something we don't like to do," said Beyerstedt.
In the months since the fire, the Gulfport resident has made a full recovery. The burned structure that was once Mouring's house is in the process of being demolished.
Remembering that night, Mouring says she knew she was a "goner." When she thinks about the firefighters who saved her life, Mouring has nothing but thanks.
"I don't even know their names," said Mouring. "But, bless them; bless their hearts."
"It's above and beyond the call of duty, [like] the verse from the Bible, that says greater is the man than he who lays down his life for his brother," said Beyerstedt. "This was a circumstance where these people certainly put their lives on the line to save one our citizens."
For their actions, the Fire Chief nominated the trio for the Mississippi Burn Association Fire Fighter of the Year Award, which is a state wide honor.
The three received the award to a standing ovation in a ceremony in Jackson.
Combined, the group has more than 40 years of experience with the Gulfport Fire Department. They say the recognition is nice, but it is deserved of the entire department.
"It's not a one man thing. It's a team effort and it takes a whole team to make it work," said firefighter Eric Dedeaux.
"The recognition wasn't actually the best part. The best part was knowing that we actually had the save. The recognition was just icing on the cake," said Clark.