-- A retired firefighter says he is “so happy” he was able to watch a girl he rescued from her crib as a 9-month-old walk across the stage and accept her high school diploma.
Mike Hughes, 61, was a captain with the Wenatchee, Wash., Fire Department 17 years ago when he responded to an emergency call about a house fire.
“Our engine pulled up and the whole interior part of the house was burning heavily,” Hughes told ABC News today. “My partner and I went in and I got a call on the radio that they suspected somebody was in the house."
“I went straight to the place in the house that I thought I’d find somebody,” he said. “The door to the bedroom was partially open and she was in her crib just squirming so i snatched her up and got her to the front door and handed her off to the first firefighter who was there.”
The 9-month-old baby inside the crib, whose life was saved by Hughes, was Dawnielle Davison, now a high school senior.
Hughes recalls the rescue as “pretty perfect” and says it is “rare” to have such a happy conclusion — no one inside the house was hurt.
The rescue stuck in Hughes’ mind so much that a few years ago he went online to check on Davison. He found the then-middle school student on Facebook.
“I sent her a note that said, ‘I think i pulled you out of a fire when you were a baby,’” Hughes recalled. “And she gave me a test…she wrote back, ‘Oh yeah, what was my mom doing?’”
“I replied, ‘Well she was at work and your dad was there,’” Hughes said.
Having passed the accuracy test, Hughes kept in touch with Davison, even attending some of her track meets and occasionally running into the teen and her step-dad at the local hardware store.
This month, Hughes received a message from Davison, who could not be reached by ABC News, that he did not expect.
The teenager invited the man who saved her life to her high school graduation this past Saturday.
“She sent me an invitation so I thought, ‘By golly, I’m going,’” he said. “It meant an awful lot to me. I was really happy.”
Davison told local ABC affiliate KOMO that it is “really hard to believe” she went through the fire ordeal, and that having Hughes with her at her next milestone was emotional.
"Really emotional," Davison told KOMO at the graduation. "I don't know really how to describe it, they're happy tears, to realize some things could have gone wrong.”
Hughes said the moment also brought tears to his eyes.
“She said words to the effect of, ‘I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you and your crew,’” Hughes said. “She was the third person I’d pulled out of a fire in my career so I always say the third is the charm.”
“That’s what my career and the fire service is all about,” he said.