BEL AIR, MD. -- When Martin Jones and his brother Mark came upon a burning car on the John F. Kennedy Hwy. north of Baltimore, they knew they had to work quickly to save a youth trapped inside.

"It was the only thing to do," Martin Jones, 22, of Joppa, Md., said last week. "The kid was conscious and looking at us and asking us for help. What else could we do?"

The two brothers rescued Sean P. Little, 15, from the car on I-95 on Dec. 10, placing them among 20 Americans and one Canadian honored for heroism last week by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Three of the 21 heroes died in performing their deeds. The latest heroes are among 76 honored by the commission this year and 7,145 honored since it was founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1904.

Each hero -- or the hero's survivors -- receives $2,500 and a medal.

Martin Jones, a carpenter, said he and his 27-year-old brother, of Bel Air, "ran up to the car and I went for a fire extinguisher."

"He couldn't get the kid out by himself. He backed away because of the heat, but then I tapped him on the shoulder and we both went in together. It all happened very fast. We figure maybe it took 15 or 20 seconds," he said.

The commission said the Joneses pulled the boy to safety moments before the car exploded, killing Sean's mother, who was trapped at the wheel. Both men suffered minor burns to their faces and hands.

"We got about 10 feet, and the car just totally blew up; it was totally engulfed at that point," Mark Jones said.

He said the award is a poignant honor.

"I'm very honored by it, but it's kind of a bittersweet thing, since his mother got killed in the accident," he said after the award ceremony. "But we were able to get Sean out, and I'm just very grateful that we didn't get injured in the process."

Sean, a high school junior, said of the award: "I don't think it's enough."

The crash occurred about 4:30 p.m. Sean and a 13-year-old friend were passengers as Sean's mother, Carol Ann Little, 40, was driving south on I-95 south of the Harford-Baltimore county line. Her car sideswiped a tractor-trailer, according to police accounts.

The impact sent the car across the median and into the path of a northbound car, which hit Little's car broadside. Little's car then ricocheted off the cab of a northbound tractor-trailer and skidded to a halt before bursting into flames.

The 13-year-old friend was thrown out of the car, crashing through the rear window, but Carol Ann Little was trapped behind the wheel. Sean was conscious but unable to move from the back seat when the brothers pulled him free.

Carol Ann Little was pronounced dead at the scene. Sean was flown by state police helicopter to the burn unit at Francis Scott Key Medical Center in Baltimore, where he spent 17 days for treatment of fractures of the left thigh, cheekbone and nose, and burns on his face and both legs, forearms and hands.

Sean, who is back at school and employed part time as a maintenance worker for a fast-food restaurant chain, will spend Christmas vacation this year back at the hospital for skin grafts on his face.