DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) - It is a life and death moment that makes you hold your breath. Even the photographer in the helicopter shooting video of the fire couldn't help but gasp as the roof started to collapse on the firefighters.
"As soon as I felt it going I just reached for that wall," said Mark Farrell. Mark Farrell is the Dearborn firefighter sliding toward a hole of fire who narrowly escaped being burned alive.
"Thank God for both of these guys," said Farrell.
His fellow firefighters Joe Murray and Lt. Steven Bucholz who is wearing a red helmet in the video, formed a chain to pull each other off the collapsing roof.
"I didn't really know how bad it really was. We all came off the roof and went back to work," said Farrell.
None of the three men realized how close of a call they had, until after the evening news.
"Oh man, I was closer to the hole than I thought it was. And it wasn't until I saw the video that I realized that," said Farrell.
"It really opened our eyes how lucky we got," said Joe Murray.
The fire that started at Fordson Cleaners shut down Michigan Avenue in Dearborn and had the potential to take out the entire block of businesses.
"Basically, we've been told to open up a hole to let all the hot air out so the crews underneath could get in and put the fire out. It was burning so long underneath there that it weakened the structural members and that's what caused the collapse there," said Murray.
There was no warning before the roof gave way.
"It was like fine and I was cutting and then it just dropped. It's not like it was getting lower and lower, that's just it right there," said Farrell.
"As crazy as it was at the time they both kept level heads and our lieutenant was just giving us instructions calm and collective and telling us what to do. And were able to work through it," said Farrell.
It was too close for them to even want to think about what could have been.
"Both Joe and Steve, I have to thank them. Because really seeing it, you realize that that could have been really bad. So, I just feel a lot of gratitude for both of them," said Farrell.
All three men made it off the roof safely and were able to go home to their families later that night. Farrell and his wife just had a baby in October.
The men credit their survival to the fact that there were three of them on the roof. The department is fully staffed. The Dearborn Fire Department has not suffered any cuts this year.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.