Newton Kansan

Julie Curtis looks at her husband of a year-and-a-half and sees a hero — a lot of newlyweds would. But today, she really is living with a hero — a man who saved a life.

Wednesday afternoon the couple was at Kwik Shop on 12th Street in Newton, filling their car with gas, when a near tragedy struck. A car caught fire, along with a man's pants.

"I heard a commotion a couple of pumps over," said Mark Curtis. "I saw a vehicle on fire, and a man engulfed in flames."

Mark sprang into action — grabbing his wife's jacket and running forward to smother the flames threatening to engulf the man and possibly kill him. Others watching joined in — and a life was saved.

Mark became a hero — but don't tell him that.

"I did what I hope anyone else would do," Mark Curtis said.

That answer is no surprise to his wife.

"He really puts people before himself," Julie Curtis said.

She told the Kansan Mark's heroic actions were no shocker to her. Despite dealing with health problems he works long hours at AGCO to support the blended family. She's married to a man who has suffered multiple heart attacks, deals with atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and sleep apnea — but doesn't bat an eye at taking care of a wife who injured herself and hasn't been able to work.

He has three children of his own, and supports three stepchildren as well.

"He gives without thinking," Julie Curtis said. "His parents raised him right."

According to her, and to Mark, the only selfish thing he did Wednesday was to grab her coat — rather than use the hoodie he was wearing. But even that was the right choice — hers took less time to grab and get on top of the flames.

"I knew he was getting into trouble," Mark Curtis said. "I knew his life was in danger. … When I got to him, he was on the ground trying to get his pants off and screaming for help."

Thursday afternoon Mark Curtis could feel the singed skin of his hands anytime he washed his hands, but he'd escaped blisters of serious burns. The man he saved, who was not identified by Newton Police who arrived on the scene after the fire was out, was in the hospital.