Virginia Off Duty Firefighter Severely Cut Trying To Save Toddler

Richmond firefighter Michael Smith valiantly attempted to save a one-year-old baby who was trapped in his crib during a fire on July 27. During the rescue attempt the firefighter's arm was severely lacerated.

The story begins on the 2000 block of Creighton Court, in a two-story masonary type apartment building. Firefighter Smith was off-duty from Richmond Fire Department and working at a construction job nearby.

Richmond Fire Lt. Keith Vida said Smith and several of his co-workers heard a woman screaming (the mother) for help. Smith and the workers immediately ran to the scene and was told by the mother the child was trapped in an upstairs bedroom surrounded by fire.

Smith without hesitation immediately attempted entry into the inferno.

Vida said at the first attempt Smith, who had no personal protection gear, was driven back by the heavy fire, heavy smoke and an intense heat. The conditions were total blackness and within the cinderblock structure it was like walking into a furnace.

Smith was determined to not give up.

On his second attempt at entry, Smith wrapped a wet shirt around his face and took a broom to attempt to break a window in the room for ventilation. Smith lost the broom during the struggle to get into the bedroom.

Behind Smith, a Richmond Police Officer and two of Smith’s co-workers were trying to enter to assist Smith, but they were beaten back by the wall of heat, fire and smoke at the top of the stairs.

On the third attempt Smith finally made entry into the poisonous air and unbearable heat conditions, where he broke out a window with his arm,he was searching by feel for the baby but because of the conditions couldn't locate him.

Shortly after Smith’s entry Richmond firefighters arrived on scene and with their PPE were able to quickly enter the structure and retrieve the toddler.

The toddler and Smith were transported to VCU Medical Center. The toddler was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Smith underwent surgery for lacerated tendons and ligaments. Further updates on his condition are not yet available.

One of Smith's co-workers was transported to the hospital treated for smoke inhalation, then released.

Officials said the cause of the fire is siblings playing with a lighter. The children had caused a mattress to catch on fire and panicked, closing the bedroom door. By time the mother was alerted to the fire, it was well established and she was unable to enter the room.

Smith has been with Richmond Fire and EMS for four years.

Apparatus responding to the fire was: Quint 1, Quint 11, Quint 5 and Rescue 1. Crews discovered heavy black smoke upon arrival from the second story windows. Fire was marked under control at 1027 hours.