Nebraska Firefighters Talk About Attempted Rescue

Dec. 12, 2008
The intense heat caused them to back out of the house.

OMAHA, Neb. --

Two firefighters who felt their way through a smoky bedroom to retrieve a 3-year-old boy caught in a house fire said heat almost drove them out of the house.

One of the firefighters, Wil Guidebeck, is still on his probationary period, finishing his first year with the department. Guidebeck said his memories of the scene will stay will stay with him for a long time.

"You couldn't see anything. It was very hot," said Guidebeck. "You couldn't see anything, even with our flashlight. You literally couldn't see your hand in front of your face."

He and Capt. Jim Lee tried to work their way through the smoke and flames to find the boy.

"We made it to the end of the kitchen next to the hallway and the next thing we know, we're plastered against the ground and we couldn't go any farther," Lee said.

The two men backed out of the house and tried to get in through the window of a second floor bedroom.

"I figured we had five seconds to go in and search before we were going to have to bail out really fast," Lee said.

Blinded by the smoke, the men felt around the room and Guidebeck said he thought he felt the victim. He grabbed Darius Potter-Tate and handed him to Lee, who rushed the boy down the ladder to waiting paramedics.

"He was still alive and we were happy about that," Lee said. "We wish the (eventual) outcome had been different."

Potter-Tate died at the hospital.

"There are things I'm going to see that will always remind me of him and there's nothing we can do about that," Lee said.

"We train for this stuff a lot, but until this day, I hadn't had an experience like this yet," Guidebeck said.

He said he hopes he never has to do anything like that again.

"Have a plan. Go over it with your kids or whoever else may be living in your house with you," Guidebeck said. "Just have a plan."

The fire is still under investigation.

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