BROOKSVILLE - A Hernando County sheriff's deputy who pulled a man from a burning home in High Point on Tuesday evening says he was just doing his job.
Deputy James Devorak was the first to arrive at the home and said he relied on sound and touch to find the victim, who was on the floor in a lanai area.
Flames were shooting through the roof and doors when High Point Volunteer Department Deputy Chief Bob Kanner arrived bout a minute after the call went out at 7:30 p.m.
As he was putting on his gear, Kanner heard screaming coming from the front door, he said.
The chief ran to the door and saw a man backing out of the home pulling someone.
"I got behind them to help, then I realized it was a deputy sheriff," Kanner said.
Kanner said he helped Devorak get the man to the curb, and the paramedics took over. Numerous explosions were coming from inside the house at 9003 Highpoint Blvd.
"He is truly a hero. I am sure without a doubt, whatsoever, that person would have never made it without Deputy Devorak," Kanner said.
The man was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital and treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
A preliminary investigation shows the fire was set on purpose, according to the sheriff's office, and the State Fire Marshal is investigating.
Kanner said about 30 firefighters from his department and Hernando County Fire Rescue worked to prevent the fire from spreading to neighboring homes.
Still, the windows of one home were broken and the blinds melted by the fire. But Kanner said the fire could have been a lot worse because of its size and the close proximity of the homes.
"If it happened in the middle of the night it could have spread to other houses," Kanner said.
The home is owned by Fredrick, Letitia and Bruce Ruther, according to the property appraiser's website.
Joe Curcio, chief of the High Point Volunteer Fire Department, said this was the worst fire he's ever seen in that community.
"There were 40-foot flames coming out of the back of the house," Curcio said. "The smoke was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face."
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Devorak, Devorak, who has worked as a patrol deputy with the sheriff's office for 5 years, shrugged off the idea he was a hero.
"No, sir, I was just doing my job," Devorak told a reporter.
"We receive a lot of training here at the office, and a lot of that training teaches us to react ... Sometimes you don't think; it's just all reaction," Devorak said.
Devorak said he's been called out to structure fires before, but has never ran into a burning building to save someone.
Devorak worked for the Teamsters on Long Island for 32 years, and previously worked as a auxiliary officer in Sumter County. After retiring, Devorak went to the police academy and later joined the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
"I wanted to work for Hernando ... my father was just in love with this agency," Devorak said.