An off-duty Staten Island firefighter saved an elderly couple—and their cat—on Christmas night from a blaze that started after their Christmas tree caught on fire. "My instinct just kicked in,"37-year-old Ladder Company 81 member Steven Carl told the Daily News. "I just did what I was trained to do."

Carl was driving home with his family around 11:45 p.m. after eating dinner with his parents when he saw flames shooting out of a house on Atlantic Avenue. A woman in a nightgown who had burns to her face screamed that people were still inside. A married couple in their 60s and 70s were trapped on the second floor and out on the back balcony. Carl found a ladder in the backyard, and began climbing, but the ladder broke. Asked by the Staten Island Advance what he was thinking at that moment, Carl replied, "Holy (expletive)."

A neighbor helped steady the ladder, as Carl continued to climb to the second floor to reach the couple and their 20-year-old cat. A minute after they all reached the ground, the second story of the home was engulfed in flames. "They would have had to jump on to the cement, or they would have succumbed to the smoke or got burned," Carl said. 21st Battalion Chief Michael McLaughlin praised Carl's actions. "This was a desperate situation. His deliberate and decisive actions, I can say with confidence, made a difference."

All three residents of the home were treated for burns and cuts to their hands and faces, and eight responding firefighters were treated for minor injuries, but Carl was unharmed. "I was glad I was able to help them out—they were in a bad spot," he said.

This seems like a pertinent time to remind everyone with dead, decaying evergreens in their livingrooms: keep them flush with water or just get rid of them already.