A warm embrace shared with plenty of smiles from a father and firefighter with a special reason to be thankful this season.
Antonio Villa is going on his 16th year of firefighting. "I'll be thankful for the rest of my life for what they did. They saved my son Anthony. What a great Christmas gift," said Villa.
In a job where he's constantly helping others, it's rare for this first responder to be on the other side. "Nobody wants it to happen to them. And you never think it will. Sometimes you think you're invincible, but sometimes it touches home," said Villa.
Last Friday night it was his son's home. Thirty-six-year-old Anthony Villa was alone and trapped inside his Southwest Miami-Dade house when flames erupted. The heavy smoke, heat, and deadly conditions made it impossible for him to escape.
Captain Jack Swerdloff with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue was on the team of firefighters who responded to the fire. "[It was] really difficult to see in there. It was hot. All the windows were hot. The fire was probably burning for quite some time. Mr. Villa was probably in there, unresponsive, for quite some time, so we knew time was of the essence," said Captain Swerdloff.
Primary search crews made their way into the master bedroom where the victim was unconscious. "He happened to be in cardiac arrest. It doesn't get any worse," recalled Chief Maurice Kemp.
In a tense situation where every second counts this crew got the job done, including one paramedic, Danny Montanez, with less than one year of first hand experience. "After the call, I sat down with my crew and I was still in shock. This is exactly what I got into this job for," said Montanez.
Crews quickly began life saving efforts by starting CPR. Once they were able to regain a pulse, Anthony was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Miraculously, he checked out of the hospital the very same day.
The close call making this team of first responders closer than ever before. "A miracle, some good luck and my guys in the back that did a good job," said Villa.
A friend of Villa started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the fire survivor after he lost everything in the blaze.