When St. Paul firefighters were called to a kitchen fire on the East Side in January, there was no indication that anyone was home.

Flames shot out the back of the house. Some firefighters fought the blaze and others ascended to the upper level, where the smoke was so thick that they couldn't see.

Capt. Mike Hamburger and firefighters Daniel Pierskalla and Andrew Pawlitschek felt their way through each room, searching for survivors until they came upon a 17-year-old girl in the farthest bedroom. She had no heartbeat.

The men rushed her downstairs, where a crew of Regions Hospital doctors and firefighters performed CPR on her inside the smoldering house and brought her back from clinical death.

On Tuesday, several firefighters and Drs. Bjorn Peterson and R.J. Frascone were recognized by the department for their efforts.

Fire Chief Tim Butler called it the "most selfless" rescue he's seen. The doctors and firefighters had to work on the girl, including intubating her, in the house as it smoldered because it was too cold to bring her outside. They were awaiting an ambulance. Butler and Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said several crews fought the fire and others aired out the first level by breaking open windows and doors so others could safely work on the girl.

She still is in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, but is improving.

Peterson and Frascone received the department's highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award. Several firefighters received recognition awards or letters of recognition or commendation.

"With our training, we make it work, said firefighter Jason Saver, who performed CPR on the girl. "It was just boom, boom, boom."