Teen describes rescuing younger brother from house fire

HAYWARD, California -- A teenager faced flames to save his younger brother from their burning home in unincorporated Alameda County Saturday, according to fire officials.

Without hesitation Petelo Finau put himself in danger to reach his younger brother who was trapped inside the burning home in Hayward.

Finau says his instincts kicked in when the family house caught fire.

"He was crying. It was filled with smoke so I couldn't see inside at all," Finau said.

Finau's younger brother, who is on the autism spectrum, was trapped in a bedroom, and his uncle was calling the boy's name.

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"I tried to enter the kitchen, but the heat was too strong. It caught my hair on fire and my beard on fire and it started blinding me," Finau said.

The 18-year-old rushed back into his room and put the fire in his hair out, and then he jumped nine feet from the second story window, and then climbed to his brother's window.

"I jumped on to the window and pulled myself up. And tried opening the window but my little brother, he's autistic, so he was too scared to exit out through the window. So, he closed the window on me," Finau said.

A neighbor then brought a ladder for him.

"I was just yanking him as hard as I can and then I broke the window and I flung it open," Finau said.
His brother was afraid, confused, and resisted, but Finau managed to pull him out.

"He was coughing and throwing up ash," Finau said.

The 13-year-old was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital. Alameda County fire crews say the fire started in a first floor living room.

"I think we would've had a different outcome had he not taken the action he took last night," Alameda County Battalion Chief John Whiting said.

The act of bravery has the Alameda County Fire Department wanting to hire Finau, but he has other plans.

"I am joining the navy and I am leaving. And I am leaving next week to go to deploy. So we train and we do as much as we can," Finau said.

Leaving his close knit family will be tough, but he's ready.

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