For the Rev. Matthew James, his wife, Carissa, has been a hero for the 10-plus years they've been married.
"My wife is the hero," he said Monday. "She always is."
Never was his wife's heroism more apparent than early Monday morning, when she was the first in the James family of four to realize their Waverly Avenue home was on fire.
"She had heard glass breaking, and she sounded the alarm," he said.
Carissa James woke up her husband and their two children, 14-year-old RoseCatherine and 10-year-old Mary Elizabeth, and hurried them outside as orange-yellow flames engulfed their home and shot toward the sky.
Their poodle, Annabelle, was also safe. Their cat, Slinky, was initially missing but was found later Monday in the neighborhood.
James, pastor of Trinity Bible Church on Cherry Road, stood in the yard of the destroyed home, where the family had lived for about 10 years. Neighbors and friends arrived to give him a hug or offer their support.
Each time, James said how grateful he and his family are that they made it out safely - and that the Lord is good.
"We know God is in control," he said. "We are still standing...We're grateful to be alive and not in the hospital."
About 22 firefighters, Rock Hill Police officers, EMS and a fire investigator arrived at the home at about 2:30 a.m., said Chief Ben Funderburk with the Rock Hill Fire Department. Crews cleared the scene by 6 a.m., after the blaze had caused $200,000 in damage.
The home, which suffered major smoke, water and fire damage, is a "total loss," he said.
Fire investigator Rusty Myers said Monday afternoon the cause of the blaze was accidental, involving improper disposal of fireplace materials. The blaze began in the porch on the side of the home.
Waking up and escaping from the burning home was a "surreal" experience, James said.
"It's unlike anything," he said. "Your survival instinct kicks in. It's amazing. It was scary for our girls and really devastating for my wife. The emotional toll is quite a punch."
Neighbor Kelsey Krundl, 19, woke up when she heard multiple screams and a popping sound. She originally thought it was gunfire, but when she and her parents went to the window, they saw the flames shooting up in the sky.
The James family was already outside, she said.
"I felt bad for the family that was losing everything," Krundl said. "I'm just glad (firefighters) didn't have to go in and rescue anyone."
A car parked in front of the home suffered some damage, a melted taillight, and James said several family heirlooms were destroyed. He, fire officials and volunteers will be sifting through the damage to see what else they can salvage.
One bright spot was discovering that Carissa James' grandmother's china set was not destroyed. The china hutch suffered some smoke damage, but is otherwise fine.
James said they have not yet decided whether to move or if they will rebuild the home. They are staying with family, and though the fire destroyed their home less than three weeks before Christmas, he is confident there will be plenty of reasons to celebrate the holidays.
"We will have a brilliant Christmas because of our blessings and look at everything with a fresh level of debt," James said. "We have the Lord, we have each other and we have the strong support of our family and friends."