Young man saves brother with autism from house fire

Posted at 5:55 AM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-29 05:55:40-04

HAYWARD, CA (KRON/CNN) – An 18-year-old in California jumped out a second-story window in order to rescue his younger brother from a house fire.

Petelo Finau, 18, was in his room Friday night watching a movie when his uncle started screaming. Flames were in the kitchen, separating the 18-year-old from his younger brother, Francis, 13.

Finau jumped to safety out of a second-story window then jumped and climbed up to the ledge of a different window on the second floor to reach his brother.

"I had to jump out the window. I kind of fell. It was weird. Then I ran over...and had to pull myself up,” Finau said.

As Finau hoisted himself up to his armpits to help Francis, the 13-year-old, who has autism, was frozen with fear.

"He can't really comprehend as much as other autistic kids can, and he gets very scared of heights,” Finau said.

Finau tried to yank his brother out the window, but Francis, who saw the gathering crowd below, actually shut the window on his brother.

For almost a full minute, the 18-year-old waited and hoped.

"I honestly thought that he would have passed, and at that moment, I was thinking through all my memories of him and it really struck me at that moment how much he meant to me,” Finau said.

Finally, Francis opened the window again as smoke poured out of the home.

"When he opened that window again, I just felt the most relieved in my life where I could finally get the chance that I needed to get him out,” Finau said.

Neighbors rushed over with a chair and ladder to give Finau something to stand on, and he managed to get Francis out of the building.

"I think that this young man has some athletic ability that probably a lot of us aren't blessed with, and I think that led to the positive outcome that we're talking about,” said Chief John Whiting with the Alameda County Fire Battalion.

That athletic ability will serve Finau well in the U.S. Navy, where he is enlisting next month.

Francis is being treated for smoke inhalation, but doctors say he’ll be fine.

Firefighters were able to battle the blaze in about a half hour. The home was rendered uninhabitable, so the siblings will be staying with relatives.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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