MILFORD (CBS) – A firefighter went back into a burning Milford home to retrieve an American flag. The firefighter, a U.S. Marine veteran, saw the flag through the window and wanted to save it.

Al Lawrence wasn’t able to salvage much Tuesday afternoon when a fire gutted his Milford home, leaving him and four others without a place to live.

“Visible flames. I have pictures on my phone. The flames were already six, eight feet high on the back porch,” Lawrence said.

Firefighters were forced out of the home along East Street as flames ripped through the back porch. Milford Fire Lt. Bill Collins explained why he had to run back inside to save the flag.

“Being an ex-Marine, he said ‘Hey Billy, why don’t you go in and save that flag?’ I said all right. I put my Scott back on, my helmet and my gloves. I walked in the building, I pulled the flag down and I came out,” Lt. Collins said.

Milford Fire Lt. Bill Collins (WBZ-TV)

Collins served in Operation Desert Storm before joining the Milford Fire Department. It’s the reason why Collins says he respects the American flag and what it stands for.

“The flag means a lot to me, but I’m sure it does to the other guys too,” Collins said. “I didn’t want to see the flag get hurt or burnt up.”

Firefighters battle blaze at Milford home (WBZ-TV)

The homeowner appreciated the gesture, as he comes from a police family. While they were only able to recover a couple boxes of items, at least one tenant says like the flag, he’s lucky he made it out of the home in one piece.

“It’s tough losing pictures of your kids, your clothing, all that, but everybody’s alive,” Lawrence said. “Thank God my roommate was home or I’d be dead in that room.”

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