Aug. 22--Michael Grant, a 43-year-old father of three, ran into a burning apartment house on Murdock Street in Brighton yesterday with smoke and flames closing in on him and only one thought on his mind -- saving lives.
The independent contractor said he wasn't a hero, just determined. The fatal fire claimed one man's life and left nine injured, including five firefighters. The fire was sparked by an electrical short on the first floor, fire officials said. Grant performed most of his heroics on the third floor where most of the victims were trapped. Here's his story as told the Herald's Laurel J. Sweet:
"I was in my driveway leaving for work and I saw the smoke because it's nearby my home. We (he was with his right-hand man James Skerry) jumped in the truck and went around the corner. It was a very quiet time of the morning -- 7:30. No one was really up.
There were two people out front. We found out one of the guys there was a first-floor guy. 'Is there anybody else?' Nobody's on the first floor. A girl there was crying. She was on the second floor. 'Is anybody there?' She said, 'No, I think everybody's out.' So we knew at that point no one was out from the third floor. We ran up the first-floor steps to the second-floor landing and we started screaming and yelling, 'Follow our voices! Is anybody up there?' We had flashlights and there was a lot of smoke inhalation at that point. We couldn't go any further. We knew it was just too dangerous. I wasn't able to see 3 feet in front of me. In 10 minutes, that thing was gone. It seemed like forever.
A little boy came out of the smoke -- it was that dark -- and we got him down the stairs, then went back in. There's a lady holding, it's obvious, a very small infant baby. We got her out."
This "proud father" of one son and two girls -- ages 5, 8 and 10 respectively -- said it was their faces, and his wife's face, flashing through his mind as he plunged headlong into peril.
"That was the first thing. ... When I ran up the stairs I said, 'OK.' That's the flashes in front of your mind saying, 'I could very well die here.' So there's a limitation of how far you go. We were asking, 'Who else is in there?' There was really no communication. I think they spoke Spanish or whatnot. It worked out as well as it could. I mean, you never want to see a fatality. I'm blessed to have my family. That's really what ran through my mind. 'Is there any kids in there?' Everybody there was a hero. Everybody helped.
We left and went to McDonald's and we sat down and had a coffee and ate. Me and James were looking at each other going, 'Did that just happen?' Shaking, nerves. I'll tell you, he'd better take that ladder off the truck that fast on a job from now on."
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