PLEASANT VALLEY, Mo. - Early Sunday morning, Mitch Bolin was headed home on Interstate 35. He had just gotten off a 12-hour shift as an overnight emergency room technician at North Kansas City Hospital.
He was tired and ready for bed. But at 7:30 a.m., he saw an apartment complex on fire in the 8200 block of Pence Road.
"There was fire blowing out of the roof, probably 20 feet in the air," Bolin said. "I just wanted to make sure everybody was okay."
Bolin also works as a part-time Claycomo firefighter and wasn't about to just drive by. He got off at the next exit and rushed to the scene.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and tried to buy himself some time.
"It knocked it down a little, so I could see if anyone was inside," Bolin said.
Everyone in the burning unit had made it out, but residents told Bolin there were people still inside other apartments.
"I sprinted around to the other side. I had the urgency that we had people inside, and we needed to get them out before they got injured," Bolin said.
Bolin found a woman trying to save some of her belongings in the apartment right above the fire. He rushed her out of the building right before the roof collapsed.
"We got down ... and I heard just a big crashing inside the house," Bolin said.
He went on to help four other people to safety. All five were taken to the hospital but are expected to survive.
"These five people got out of the house because of what Mitch did," Claycomo Fire Captain William Shawmeyer said. "He's just starting his career, but I know he's going to be a great firefighter. He's got that eagerness. He's got that inner drive that says 'I want to help people.'"
Bolin is 18 years old, and has only been a paid firefighter for eight months. The 2012 graduate of Liberty High School has been a volunteer cadet since he was 15. He says helping people is why he became a firefighter.
"I'm proud of my actions, but I'm a firefighter. That's what we do," Bolin said. "Any of my brothers in the brotherhood would have done the same thing."