LAPEER, Mich. (WJBK) - As a Ferndale firefighter, Michael Szymanski knows all too well about running into burning structures and saving lives.
But last week the burning structure was his Lapeer house.
"The whole thing must have been a minute," said Szymanski. "I ran from the bedroom to the fire extinguisher, to the kids, got them out, ran back, ran out, and it was done. It was that quick."
Szymanski says the fire started as he was using a blowtorch to fix a leak. After getting his son, an 8-year-old family friend, and some pets to safety, he says the flames were too strong to go back in.
"I tried to go back and I couldn't get though front door," he said.
Now he stands looking at what is left of his home and says he understands even more what people are going through, when they are confronted with a fire.
"We always tell people you can try to stop a small fire with an extinguisher," he said. "But with my experience now, just get your family out. If this was something different, if these kids had been sleeping, it would have been different fast."
Since the fire, Szymanski says he and his 8-year-old son are working to put their lives back together and for now are being assisted by The Red Cross.
Szymanski says he had no idea a family friend decided to set up a GoFundMe account, but says the money raised will go to provide items insurance will not take care of.
"Tooth brushes, clothes, underwear," he said. "I need some toys for (my son) , he lost his PlayStation 4 he got for Christmas."
Szymanski says he hopes to return to work this week, but admits things will be different .
"I think I'm going to be more sympathetic than I ever was toward homeowners and how much help they really need," he said.
If you would like to make a donation, CLICK HERE.