East St. Louis Firefighter Makes Daring Rescue

Updated: 01-17-2006 02:32:09 PM
CAROLYN P. SMITH
News-Democrat via Knight Ridder

Several suspicious fires in East St. Louis kept firefighters busy Sunday night, and in one instance the assistant fire chief was being hailed as a hero for getting a 55-year-old woman out of her burning house alive.

Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Grimmett said he was only doing his job when he rushed to the aid of Billie Jean Cole, who was trapped inside her burning home at 1932 Tudor Ave.

A neighbor, Joey Williams, said he was sitting outside in his girlfriend's car when he noticed smoke and flames coming from the house a few doors down from his home.

"I ran across the street to get Chief Grimmett," he said.

"He called for additional firefighters and came across the street to help the people," Williams said.

Grimmett said a call about the fire was going out as he was leaving his house to see what was going on.

Cole's husband, Willie Cody, was already out. He had gotten his wife to the middle of the room. He couldn't get her out of the house, though, because of the heavy smoke, Grimmett said. Cody is 77 and Williams said he was glad he was sitting outside at the right time and possibly helped to save someone's life.

"I feel good. I am just glad that no one was hurt," he said.

Grimmett said he when he got to the front of the house, he bent down and he heard Cole screaming. He reached out for her and she grabbed his hand and he brought her out of the burning house.

"I'm just glad I was able to pull her to safety," he said smiling.

Grimmett said Cody told him that the fire started in an electrical outlet at the home.

"The flames from the socket caught onto the bed mattress and ignited the house," Grimmett said.

Also Sunday, firefighters responded at 9:54 p.m. to a suspicious blaze at 535 N. 36th St. No injuries were reported.

"The two-story structure was vacant. There was no electric or gas at the location. We are currently investigating it," Fire Chief William H. Fennoy said.

In yet another blaze, at 634 N. 61st St. at 10:52 p.m., Grimmett said someone may have set the vacant, one-story structure on fire.

No one was injured in this fire.

"We're currently investigating it as suspicious," Grimmett said.

Belleville News Democrat

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Another busy day at East Side. Good job A/C Grimmett! I heard they had a fire the next morning too.