A 74-year-old Pennsylvania woman is crediting her 14-year-old neighbor with saving her from a burning house -- by using a rickety ladder.
"I'm grateful to be alive," said Charlene McMasters from her hospital bed on Wednesday. "It was quite an ordeal."
New Castle Assistant Fire Chief David Joseph commended Justin Ritchie's quick thinking, calling the hero "humble and quiet."
"Even when he was telling me about it, he was shaken and rattled," Joseph said, adding, "The more I listened to the story unfold, the better it got."
Attempts by msnbc.com to contact Ritchie were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Joseph said the incident happened about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, when a fire broke out on the first floor of McMasters' two-story home in western Pennsylvania. Fire officials still do not know what caused the blaze that destroyed her home.
"I don't know what it was, but I remember something woke me up," McMasters said. "I noticed smoke and I rushed to get my handbag and I went to the window and screamed and screamed."
Ritchie told Joseph he woke up to his dog barking and then heard a woman shouting.
"He went out and saw this woman hanging out of the window... It was Charlene and her house was on fire," Joseph said.
Ritchie spotted an old wooden ladder that had been abandoned next to McMasters' house and made a dash to the house. The teen set it against the burning structure, warning McMasters that her escape route was unstable and rickety, Joseph said.
McMasters said she didn't care. She took two steps down and the ladder broke.
"I came crashing down and fell a long way," she said.
McMasters said she suffered broken ribs from the 10-foot fall, but that was OK. She was being released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon and planned to spend Thanksgiving Day with her children at their homes in Pennsylvania.
"I got a walker, a good therapy session and I will heal," McMasters said.
"I can't thank this young man enough. I don't know what would have happened had he not come to my rescue."