1. #1
    District Chief
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    Post Escambia County Florida--Child Escapes House Fire

    PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL

    Boy escapes fire in last-ditch effort/

    pitalized youth critical; probe under way in blaze at home
    Brett Norman
    @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

    Rescuer Anthony Crawford saw it in the boy's eyes - Joseph Webster was about to give in to the flames. The 9-year-old Brentwood Elementary student was trapped in a fiery bedroom just before midnight Monday and quickly was losing strength.

    "You could just see him fighting it with his hands. You could tell the heat was getting in on him," said Crawford, 42, who helped with the rescue. "We just kept telling him not to give up, not to quit trying, because he was about to, you could tell."

    The motivation worked.

    Joseph made a last leap for the window. Crawford, along with a man he is unable to identify, succeeded in pulling the disoriented and burned boy free as flames began to engulf the overhang above them.

    Joseph suffered burns to about 10 percent of his body, mainly a shoulder and his back, said Brent Volunteer Fire Department Chief Harold Poole, the first emergency official on the scene.

    "If it hadn't been for (the neighbors), that kid would be dead. I have no doubt about it," Poole said.

    The boy is the first person to be seriously injured since the cold snap began this fire season. With eight fire-related deaths in Escambia County so far this year, officials are hoping to prevent a repeat of 2001, when 13 people died - more than in any other county in the state.

    Joseph was taken to the University of South Alabama Children's and Women's Hospital in Mobile, where he was listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday.

    His mother, Sheilah Bell, was with her son and could not be reached for comment.

    State Fire Marshal investigator Thomas Bosco said the fire was under investigation. He had yet to talk with all the individuals who were in the home when the fire broke out, but he said the blaze appeared to be accidental.

    Firefighters quickly doused the flames after arriving, Poole said, but the home was a total loss.

    Joseph's three siblings and mother escaped without injury, including his sister who was trapped briefly in the bedroom with him before she was pulled through the window.

    After the rescue, neighbors offered blankets, sweat suits, shirts and shoes to the scantily clad and shaken family, Crawford said.

    "What they had on, they had on," he said. "They got away with the most important thing, which is their lives. Everything else can be replaced."

    Brentwood Elementary School Principal Janet Riddle said Joseph's classmates were worried about their friend. Two of Joseph's siblings, Jervuntez Webster and Yolandra Bell, also attend Brentwood.

    Joseph's fourth-grade teacher, Dawn Sims, said Joseph has a bubbling personality, is respectful and is always smiling.

    "All of her students are making get-well cards and taking pictures of the class to send to him," Riddle said. "They are also going to try to make a video where each of them gets to say something."

    The faculty is taking up a collection to help the family, she said.

    "We sent home a notice in the parents' newsletter (Tuesday) to ask them to keep the family in their thoughts over the holidays," Riddle said.

    The American Red Cross of Northwest Florida will provide the family with shelter, food and clothing and is coordinating with the Mobile chapter to deliver the services, said spokeswoman Grace McCaffery.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Update on Childs Condition

    PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL.COM

    "Big Joe," 9, recovering after blaze

    Unwatched candle cause of fire, investigators say
    Brett Norman
    @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

    Sheilah Bell has lost everything, and her 9-year-old son is on a ventilator in Mobile with severe burns to his back and a shoulder.

    As the young family began to regroup Wednesday without a home, clothes, identification or money, state fire marshal investigators said a candle left near a blanket Monday night is to blame for their troubles.

    Joseph Webster, a fourth-grader at Brentwood Elementary School, narrowly escaped death when he made a leap for the bedroom window - his only escape route. He was pulled free by Willie McMillian, his mother's boyfriend, and neighbor Anthony Crawford, 42, both of whom feared the boy had succombed to the flames.

    No one else was injured seriously in the fire.

    Joseph was in guarded but stable condition Wednesday at the University of South Alabama Children's and Women's Hospital in Mobile. He faces infection, as do all burn victims, but his injuries are expected to heal in three to four weeks, Bell said.

    She said Joseph cannot talk because of the ventilator, but she watched his heart rate increase Tuesday as she sang to him and reminded him of the PlayStation 2 he hopes to get for Christmas.

    The 27-year-old mother of four still is reeling.

    "Can you imagine, just to stand there as a parent and watch the fire starting to get to him, with the flames getting closer and hotter?" asked Angel McShan, 30, Bell's cousin, who is helping to care for the children.

    At the Palafox Street headquarters of the American Red Cross of Northwest Florida, Bell shook her head.

    She finished cleaning house when she lighted a scented candle and took it to her bedroom. She was dozing in front of the TV when McMillian yelled that her home, on the 900 block of Cranbrook Avenue, was ablaze.

    "I tried to go back to (Joseph's) bedroom but the flames were coming out," she said. "It was getting real hot and stuff was falling from the ceiling."

    Trapped, Joseph boosted his younger sister, Youlandra Bell, 8, through the window before trying to get out.

    "We call him Big Joe," McShan said. "And he was so strong about it. He wasn't crying. He walked to the ambulance and had good manners, he said, `Yes, sir,' and `No, sir."'

    Said Bell: "I'm just happy that Joe made it out alive. That's all I am, really."

    But the family also is grateful for the support of the Red Cross, which is providing food, clothing and a motel room in Mobile for the weekend.

    "I'm really surprised," said McShan, who is helping Bell care for the children. "This is my first time ever needing any help. This is great because you can walk in here and you've got nothing, and they give you clothing and groceries and help you find somewhere to stay."

    Meanwhile, at Brentwood Elementary, Joseph's class finished get-well cards for him, and the faculty took up a collection to help with expenses.

    Principal Janet Riddle said the In-town Businesswomen's Club, one of the school's partners in education, pledged to help the family purchase Christmas presents. An account is being set up at Wachovia Bank to accept donations for the family, although it will not be open before this weekend.

    The family's experience is a powerful reminder to keep a close watch on open flames, and to leave firefighting to firefighters, said state fire marshal investigator Kevin Fiedor.

    Joseph's family tried to extinguish the fire, he said.

    "You have to keep candles away from combustibles, and that did not happen in this case," he said. "The best idea is to get everyone out of the house immediately, and then if there's any attempt to put out the fire, do it from the outside."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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