SPARKS, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- More than 30 Sparks residents are rebuilding their lives after an apartment fire near the marina last weekend. The Green family lost everything they own, but they still have each other.
It is a story that could have ended very differently, if 12-year-old Tyler Green had not acted quickly and saved his younger brother and sister.
"It changed my entire life dramatically," Katrina Green said. "It's something you never want to go through. Never."
Katrina lived a nightmare. She left her kids at home to run a quick errand and her neighbor's apartment caught fire. As it was burning, her 12-year-old son Tyler called her.
"He was on the phone saying 'Mom, our apartment's burning down,'" Katrina said. "I was in a panic."
Now the family looks at the wreckage, everything they own destroyed, and Tyler tells the story. "I smelled smoke, so I walked up to the living room. I saw smoke coming through the door, a little smoke. I opened the door, just a big black cloud of smoke."
He acted quickly to save his 7-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother. "I closed the door. I grabbed [them] and opened it again," Tyler said. "I told them to try not to inhale the smoke. So we just ran down the steps and a couple seconds later it exploded."
"He said 'Mom, I just got them out. We didn't go back to get anything.' and I said 'Thank God you didn't, Tyler,'" Katrina said.
"I knew that wasn't important," Tyler said. "All that stuff can be replaced."
Katrina said she could not afford renter's insurance, so they are on their own to replace it. But she has what matters: her children, including her hero son.
"I told myself not to panic," Tyler said. "I did the best I could and it worked out."
Tyler's best was enough, and News 4 was there as he got a surprise from the Red Cross: he has been nominated as a "Real Hero", and will be honored at a banquet in March.
"We want more Tylers in our community," said American Red Cross Spokeswoman Patti Weiske. "He used amazing instincts to do the right thing and to save others."
Tyler's mom could not be more proud. "It's a great feeling to know your child would do something like that and that he didn't hesitate."
"I think every mom, or parent, should tell their kids what to do in a situation like that - like my mom did," Tyler said.
"He saved his brother and sister and, in a way, he saved me too," Katrina said. "He's awesome."
If you'd like to help the Green family rebuild their lives, you can donate to the "Katrina Green and children victims of fire donation account" at any Wells Fargo branch.
If you want to help but cannot donate money, the Red Cross Disaster Relief program always needs volunteers.