MASON CITY | A Mason City man who helped his neighbors escape a burning house is being hailed as a hero. 

Toyon Hamilton, 33, sprang into action when he saw flames rolling up the front of 22 N. Jefferson Ave. shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday night. 

He knew three clients of Opportunity Village, which serves people with intellectual disabilities, and their caretaker were inside the home. 

"It was just spreading so quick, (that) I’m like, 'My God, y'all gotta get outta here," Hamilton said. "It went quick."

Mason City firefighters say the fire started on the porch and entered the house through two windows that broke from the heat. It also burned through the front door and up the stairwell into the second floor.

Hamilton went inside the burning home twice to help residents out of the building, including a woman he said appeared to have passed out at the top of the stairs.

“She passed out and I had to get her up,” he said.

The smoke was so thick it was hard to breathe, Hamilton said. 

"It cut your wind off automatically. It cut it off," he said. "It's like holding your breath."

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Machele Raska thinks Hamilton is a hero and credits him for saving her sister, Tammie Eggleston. 

She said Eggleston, who sleeps in an upstairs back bedroom, told Opportunity Village staff that a neighbor carried her out of the house.

"I do not know him, but I really would like to be able to physically and personally give him a hug for saving all their lives," said Raska, of Colter.

The four people in the house, and Hamilton, were taken to Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa for evaluation.

“Right now everybody is fine and uninjured,” said Opportunity Village Spokeswoman Megan Byrd. “They’ve been housed in temporary accommodations and we’re waiting on the fire marshal’s report.”

Raska says her sister, Tammie, 54, was doing O.K. Monday morning, although she and other residents were concerned about personal items left in the fire.

"I told my sister personal things can be replaced. I can get you glasses. I can get you shoes.  I can get you clothes," Raska said. "I can’t get you.”

Mason City Fire Department investigators returned to the scene Monday morning.

The entire east side  -- from the porch up to the roof --  of the 2,100-square-foot house owned by Russ Hardy was severely charred. 

Investigators concluded the blaze was started by improperly discarded smoking material.

Like Raska, firefighters credited Hamilton with preventing tragedy.

“The outcome could have been different without his actions in notifying the residents and assisting them out of the building,” according to a Mason City Fire Department statement.

A little overwhelmed by the attention, Hamilton says he was just trying to do the right thing.

"I was just trying to get everybody out of there," he said.

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