Johnny Cade dies a hero after rescuing children from a burning church. The church where Johnny and Ponyboy were hiding burns down, and Johnny feels responsible for possibly having set the fire by smoking in the church. He rushes into the blaze to save the kids.
Johnny's deeds are particularly heroic because he has a very scared temperament. Ponyboy says of Johnny, "I had seen Johnny after four Socs got hold of him, and it wasn't pretty. Johnny was scared of his own shadow after that." Johnny is only 16 and has been beaten badly by the Socs. He is also abused and neglected at home, and, as a result, he is scared of everything. He is therefore especially heroic when he rescues children in the fire. Ponyboy says of Johnny:
"Johnny wasn't behaving at all like his old self. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the door was blocked by flames, then pushed open the window and tossed out the nearest kid."
Johnny dies as a result of the burns and injuries he suffered during the fire, and he dies knowing that he has lived a short and painful life in which he didn't get a chance to see or do much of what he wanted to; however, he dies a true hero.