DYKER HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- An off-duty FDNY firefighter jumped into action to rescue his family and neighbors from a five-alarm fire in Brooklyn late Saturday night but lost his own home in the process.
The blaze destroyed three homes in Dyker Heights, including Piotr Orlowski's.
"I told my parents, 'Get ready to evacuate,'" he said.
It was just before midnight when he smelled smoke and saw an ominous orange glow coming from his neighbor's home.
Everyone was about to go to sleep, and so looking back, Orlowksi knows that if he had not seen the warning signs, the results could have been catastrophic.
"We would have been in the house," he said. "I wouldn't have been able to help my neighbor, and my parents would have been dead, even me."
When he got to his neighbor's house, he faced a wall of fire and an elderly woman sitting on the porch without her husband.
The 33-year-old Orlowksi rushed into the house, where flames were quickly taking over. He had no equipment, only determination and laser focus.
"I woke him up, told him, 'I have to get you out,'" he said. "I just made the decision, picked him up, took him outside."
Orlowksi then saw the unthinkable, the flames were spreading to his home, where his family -- including his parents, sister and dog -- were still inside.
"I told my parents, 'There's no time... we're getting out now.'"
No one was seriously hurt, but 12 firefighters suffered minor injuries. Orlowski's split second decision to do something did not go unnoticed.
"He was able to put his training, his skills, and ability into action," FDNY Chief Kevin Woods said. "And he saved that man's life, hands down."