It looked like something out of a Lethal Weapon movie, only without any mugging from Mel Gibson. There was construction worker Ivers Sims, 49, perched atop a crane looming 220 feet above Atlanta's Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. Below him a spectacular fire raged through the mill and nipped at his crane—all while TV cameras caught the scene live. "The heat, was so intense, I knew I couldn't get down," says Sims, the married father of three children. "So I prayed to God to save me."

Enter Mel Gib...er, Matt Moseley, a 30-year-old Atlanta firefighter. Harnessed to the end of an 80-foot polyester rope, he appeared angel-like out of the heavens as a rescue helicopter flew him toward Sims. "I told him I'd come up because his boss said he could knock off early," says Moseley, adding that Sims seemed not in the mood for his humor. "I wasn't thinking about jokes," the grateful rescuee says with a laugh. "I was thinking about getting to the ground."

Moseley, a scuba-diving buff who isn't crazy about heights, got the job done. As TV viewers held their breath, he secured Sims—unharmed except for mild heat exposure—to a harness, and both men were flown to safety by crack helicopter pilot Boyd Clines and navigator Larry Rogers. But a scarier challenge awaited Moseley the following day: appearing on all the morning talk shows. "I can't wait till this is over," says the unmarried hero (he has a steady girlfriend). "Fighting fires is nothing compared to the media."