It was an ordinary shift until Brian Newton noticed something unusual. The Rural Metro ambulance EMT quickly made a U-turn and called in a possible fire. His paramedic partner, Shawn Ellis, jumped into action.
Payal Gandhi, 17, was sleeping upstairs inside her home. "He just came into my room like, 'Ma'am, your house is on fire,' and that's when I got scared and I was like, is this real? Am I dreaming, kind of?" she said.
The fire spread quickly.
"I see that the flames were flickering out of the doorway and that thick black smoke began to just completely fill the hallway and at that time I just said I think it's time to get out of here," Ellis said.
All of that happened before fire crews were even able to arrive at the home.
The two men were honored at a ceremony Friday for their heroic efforts.
"As they found out the fire was spreading very quickly and had they not been there to take action, the outcome would have be very different," San Jose Fire Department Chief William McDonald said.
No one is more grateful for the rescue than Payal's mother. She says Ellis really saved two lives. "I can't imagine life without her, so it's a life for both of us," Pallavi Hazari said.
For Newton and Ellis there are plaques, pictures and handwritten cards from Payal's family.
"I wanted to thank them, but I don't know how to because it's just so big," Payal said. "You can't thank them enough. There is no way you can pay them back for what they've done."
It turns out, when Payal says there are no words, that is reward enough.