Idaho Firefighters Rescue Unconscious Sheriff's Deputy From House Fire

Nampa Firefighter John Turley and Capt. Todd Banta pulled an unconscious Canyon County sheriff's deputy up and out a window of a home that caught fire.


NAMPA -- When you save a person from a burning home, it's not so easy to keep track of time.

Nampa Firefighter John Turley experienced such a time warp when he and a fellow firefighter, Capt. Todd Banta, pulled an unconscious Canyon County sheriff's deputy up and out a window of a home that caught fire Thursday just after 3 p.m.

"It felt like an hour, but it was probably 2 or 3 minutes," Turley said of the rescue. "My first thoughts were, I thought he was dead."

But the victim -- Thomas McGee -- who has worked the jail for the Canyon County Sheriff's Office for about three years, is expected to recover.

He had been sleeping, firefighters said. But when Turley and Banta heaved him outside through the bedroom window he was not breathing.

McGee became conscious a short time later and was transported to Mercy Medical Center. But the quick actions of the two Nampa Firefighters and other crew members may have saved his life.

When truck No. 431 arrived at a home behind the Lone Star Market and Nursery on Lone Star Road, firefighters knew someone was trapped inside.

Battalion Chief Dave May was already on scene when a visibly distraught woman pulled up. She said her fianc/ was still in the home.

"She pointed to that bedroom and said he's in there," May said, referring to a broken window.

As the front room of the home burned, a window on the side of the home was broken out using a fire helmet. Smoke poured out of the window.

As Turley entered the bedroom, Banta saw him disappear into the wall of smoke. It was so thick you couldn't see the floor or the bed, Banta said.

While heading to shut the door to the room -- a safety precaution -- Turley found a body on that bed, just 4 feet from the window sill.

"At that point I didn't worry about the door," Turley recalled. "We've got him right here -- let's get him out."

Banta then entered the room and the two firefighters heaved him out of the window.

As a result of their extensive training, the pair acted without thinking twice.

"It was all muscle, it was all adrenaline," Banta said.

R.A. Ambrose, who lives across the street, said he was alerted to the fire when his dog started barking.

He watched as McGee was transported to the ambulance on a stretcher.

"When he first came out of there he didn't look so healthy," Ambrose said. "Then he waved at me and I knew he was OK."

Canyon County Sheriff Chief Deputy Gary Deulen visited McGee in the hospital after the fire. He said the deputy would stay overnight for observation.

"The firemen did a great job," Deulen said.

A cause for the fire was not available Thursday night. Fire officials said they planned to wait until today to begin their investigation.

For Turley, Banta and fellow Nampa Firefighters, their job for one day had been completed.

"For him to be alone and doing quite well -- it's what it's all about for us," Turley said. "It's awesome."

Safety precautions:

Nampa Fire Battalion Chief Dave May said it's important for people to sleep with their doors closed.

The heroics of two firefighters helped save the life of a Canyon County sheriff's deputy Thursday. But an additional factor kept flames and smoke from the front room of the home, from entering the bedroom, where the deputy had been sleeping.

"His bedroom door was closed," May said. "That's probably why he's alive right now."

One side of the bedroom door facing the front room was burned black. The other side did not appear to have burned at all.