By Makenzie O’Keefe

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman wanted to thank a Thornton police officer who saved her life by pulling her out of her burning home.

Wanda James (credit: CBS)

On Sept. 5, Wanda James was having her routine nightly cigarette when her blanket caught fire. Wanda suffers from multiple sclerosis and couldn’t move quickly enough because she uses a wheelchair to get around.

“I tried to put it out with my water but it kept going and going and going,” Wanda said. “So I pushed my ‘fallen and can’t get up’ button.”

Officer Ryan Thornton (credit: CBS)

It just so happened that Officer Ryan Thornton was stopped two blocks away when he got the call.

“I was stopped at a red light nearby so I flipped on my lights, and just made a left turn into the trailer park,” Thornton said. “It came through as a medical call so I wasn’t expecting a fire, I’ll be honest with you.”

Wanda said within minutes she saw Thornton pull up.

“It’s kind of like your guardian angel,” she said. “He was just, he was there.”

Thornton said he immediately saw Wanda yelling at him through a window.

(credit: CBS)

“I was like ‘Just come to the door get out.’ And she told me she couldn’t,” Thornton said. “She said she can’t so I kicked in her front door.”

He knew right then he needed to get her out of the burning home quickly. The smoke inside was so think the first time he entered, he had to get out.

“I went out on the porch and told myself take like three breaths and go in and get her,” he said. “I think secretly I was hoping there would be a fire truck out front at this point and there just wasn’t.”

(credit: Thornton Fire Department)

He went back inside, found Wanda, and pulled her out. As soon as the two emerged from the home, Thornton collapsed.

“I heard him tell firefighters that he could use some help, so I got worried,” Wanda said.

(credit: Thornton Fire Department)

The two were rushed to the hospital together, and were both later moved to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

“I don’t even remember moving to the second hospital,” Thornton said. “Nurses told me I was in worse shape because of the smoke inhalation with my lungs. They saw a bunch of soot in there and some burns.”

A few weeks later, Wanda was able to meet her lifesaver for the first time after the fire.

(credit: CBS)

“You are my guardian angel, you’re my everything,” she told Thornton while giving him a big hug.

(credit: CBS)

“We don’t make a difference on every call, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “But every once in a while we get a chance to do something good.”

Wanda said she wanted to thank Thornton for going above and beyond his job title, and risking his own life to save hers. She said without him, she likely wouldn’t be alive today.

“Praise God he did,” she said. “He didn’t have to and he did it so I love him. He’s family.”

Makenzie O’Keefe joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2017. Read her bio, connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter at @makenziepokeefe or email her your story ideas.


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