Off duty firefighters honored for a rescue
From the Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger newspaper...
A tip of the leather for a job well done!
Driving by, it looked at first like the smoke rising above the home was a chimney fire.
But when John Higgins, a Weymouth firefighter, and his passenger Michael Eastwick, a Quincy firefighter, looked again, they knew the situation was far worse. Flames were creeping up the side of the house and smoke was pouring out, Higgins recalled during a ceremony at Weymouth Town Hall on Tuesday honoring him for helping to save the woman who was inside the home, located at 276 East St. in Hingham, on Feb. 11.
With no fire truck in sight, the two men, who were off duty and had none of their gear, forced their way inside and carried the woman to safety.
“It was just luck,” Higgins said. “What are the odds that two firefighters would be driving by just as a house was starting to be engulfed in flames and smoke? Someone was looking out for that family.”
Higgins said he and Eastwick pounded on the locked front door and could hear a woman calling for help from inside. Eastwick used a heavy-duty flashlight to smash the glass in the door and get in. The two men found the woman and carried her out. Higgins then went back inside, crawling on his hands and knees to avoid the heavy smoke, to try to rescue the woman’s dog but had to retreat when the heat and smoke became too intense.
Meanwhile, Eastwick followed the woman as she tried to get back in though a rear door and pulled her out again. The firefighters, together with an off-duty Hull police officer, Detective Sgt. Bart Forzese, held the woman back to keep her from going back inside to look for the dog.
Higgins said he and Eastwick were on their way to fix Higgins’ mother-in-law’s furnace when they spotted the flames.
Hingham firefighters spent more than eight hours at the scene of the two-alarm blaze and kept watch overnight to make sure it didn’t start back up again. The house was described as a total loss.
Mayor Susan Kay presented Higgins, of Whitman, with a certificate of recognition during the ceremony in the town council chambers.
“Your unselfish act of bravery is a credit to the Weymouth Fire Department and the entire fire service,” Kay said. “The citizens of Weymouth are safer due to your commitment.”
After the ceremony, Higgins, wearing a dress uniform, posed for pictures with fellow firefighters and family members, including his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Samantha, 10, and Jacqueline, 6.
Michelle Higgins said it’s not the first time her husband has come to the aid of a stranger while off the clock. In 2000, he pulled over and gave CPR to a man who had a heart attack in the car in front of them while they were driving in New Hampshire.
“It’s like him to do stuff like that,” she said.
Samantha Higgins summed up the sentiments expressed about her dad by Fire Chief Joseph Davis, the mayor and his fellow firefighters.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said, holding onto her father’s hand.
But Higgins said he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I hear the word ‘hero’ going around a lot and I don’t think I am one,” he said. “I have the privilege of working with people who are.”