His world was going up in flames — literally. Firefighter Christopher Ryan* was engulfed by pitch-black smoke and scorching heat amid an intense blaze on the second floor of a townhome when he and his partner, a veteran firefighter, realized they couldn’t find the way out.

“I heard my partner screaming … [telling] us to get out as fast as we could,” Ryan remembers.

But he couldn’t see a thing. Worse, his fire hose was stuck somewhere in the building and couldn’t be freed. Still green from firefighters’ school, his instructors’ words echoed in Ryan’s mind: “Never leave the hose. It’s your lifeline.”

And in that moment, Ryan says, time stood still.

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