Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Durbin
Photo credit: Chicago Fire Department
The term "off day" doesn't apply to most firefighters and for Jason Durbin, Dec. 13, 2010 was no exception.
In recognition of his efforts to save a woman from an apartment fire, Durbin has been chosen as one of the recipients of the 2010 Firehouse Heroism Awards.
The Chicago firefighter/paramedic was working his second job for a private ambulance company when he saw smoke coming from the upper floors of a 29-story high-rise building.
"I decided to check it out and as we pulled up, one of the windows blew," he said. "I went into the building and people were already self-evacuating."
He told his partner to call 911 and left instructions in the lobby that no elevators were to be used.
Durbin started up the stairs despite not having proper PPE on hand.
"The heat wasn't that bad," he said. "That was the only way I was able to get into the hallway. It was smoky, but it wasn't that hot."
Once he reached the 18th floor he encountered a man and his son who said the fire was in an apartment on the 28th floor and someone was trapped inside.
Visibility was close to zero on the fire floor and thick, black smoke was two feet from the floor. He had to feel for the door to the hallway.
Before entering, Durbin took a minute to consider his plan of action. Fresh out of the academy, high-rise fire training was fresh in his mind.
"When I got to the fire floor I sat there for about 30 seconds to gather myself before I went in."
He opened the door and darted for the burning unit but encountered the woman about seven feet through the door.
"I got her to gather her bearings and hold on and carried her down to the first floor," he said. "I was so in the zone that it was just 'Get her out of the building.' You just get stuck in the moment"
With the low heat conditions -- and the fact that the woman only weighed about 100 pounds -- he said it was the perfect scenario for the rescue.
"My initial plan was not to go on the fire floor," he said. "My thought was to start climbing until it was too bad to help clear the stairwells and then one thing led to another. It didn't even cross my mind to go up to the fire floor when I went in there."
He said his conditioning also played a role and that while he was winded once he made it out, scaling up and down 28 flights of stairs in mere minutes was something he's trained to do.
"I try to do Stairmaster four to five times a week," he said. "I'm not ripped by any means but you have to do something to keep your cardio up."
Durbin said that this was his first rescue and he'll always remember it.
"It's a great feeling. It's a humbling feeling," he said. "She made it and it was pretty cool I was able to help like that."