EDMONTON -- Two 17-year-olds were headed for a St. Albert, Alta. basketball court on Thursday when they spotted smoke coming from the Citadel Mews West Retirement facility.

“My first reaction is, 'Hey lets park the car and see if we can help,'” Ryken Glew said.

“We knew that the elderly people were going to struggle getting out,” Jackson Brown added.

The teens said they checked in with nursing staff at the entrance before heading inside to help evacuate residents.

“Bang on the door say, ‘There’s a fire, there’s a fire, everyone needs to get out,’” Brown recounted. “After that we’d open the door and take a quick look through to make sure no one was in there and go to the next door.”

They said the fire had yet to spread to the roof when they were inside, though smoke was heavy on the fourth floor.

“We tried to get everyone out as fast and as calmly as possible,” Glew said. “We started on the top floor and started working our way down clearing every door that we could, and we did our best and that’s all we could do.”

Brown said there were a few doors he opened and saw flames but in the moment he wasn’t worried about his own safety.

“The only thing that was going through my mind is what if I miss someone and they’re stuck in the building,” Brown said .

Soon after their 18-year-old friend Ethan Katicic arrived.

“When the fire started to get out of control they needed more help on the back side of the building so I decided to run over there help them out,” Katicic said.

At first he spent time bringing pets to safety.

“A little old lady needed some help down the stairs,” he said. “I helped her, carried her down the stairs. That was a pretty big moment for me. And then the majority of time I just stayed and made sure people kept their distance and let the firefighters handle the business.”

“Thank god," Richard Belley, whose father lived on the fourth floor of the building said.

"As far as I’m concerned they’re three angels.

“They’re very well-spoken, humble boys. It gives me hope for society,” he added after snapping a photo of the trio and offering his thanks.

Still, the teens don’t consider themselves heroes.

“I was raised always to help people regardless of what was happening and so my first instinct was just go in there, help everyone you can and get out,” Glew said.

“Just doing what I thought was right,” Brown added.

But for their friend, the incident reignited a long-time dream.

“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter so this was a big moment for me,” Katicic said.