DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- You might call it divine intervention, after a woman helped a family of seven escape a devastating house fire that left their home completely gutted.
The family is calling her their angel, while the woman, Nicole Cotto, said it was God who put her in the right place at the right time.
It all unfolded on the evening of July 4.
Cotto said she was dropping off a friend in the same DeKalb neighborhood, when she noticed the glow of small flames coming from a home on Cleveland Road.
She stopped at the home to make sure everything was OK, hopping out of her car in search of a water hose while she dialed 911 and waited for firefighters.
"As I'm running around the house I see a backdoor with a light on so I just start pounding on the back door. Pounding because the flames were easing their way up," Cotto recounted to 11Alive's LaTasha Givens.
It was at that moment she realized that a family was in the basement. She started screaming for everyone to get out of the house.
"The lady was like, 'What's going on?' and I was like, 'Your house is on fire! Your house is on fire,'" Cotto remembered. Twelve minutes later, she said, every inch of the structure was engulfed in flames.
Neighbor Angela Moore captured cell phone video of the fire. "I looked outside and the whole house was in flames," she told 11Alive. "I couldn't believe it."
Thanks to Cotto's simple action, all seven people inside the house made it out alive. And like most heroes, she remains humble, calling her actions no big deal. She said anyone would have done it. But fire officials said she went above and beyond.
"If you see something, say something -- well, she took it to the next level," said DeKalb County Fire Capt. Eric Jackson. "She saw something, she said something and then she did something, and you cant ask for anything better than that from someone we realize didn't have to do anything at all."
As for Cotto, she believes she was meant to be there to prevent a possible tragedy: "It was God who put me there," she told 11Alive.
While the family is without a home, Cotto is trying her best to help in that area, too. As an insurance adjuster, she is helping them navigate through the claims process to get them back on their feet.
"She is the hero," neighbors said emphatically. "She saved countless lives last night."
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