SAUGUS, Mass. -- Brave firefighters -- two of them off-duty -- risked their lives to rescue a disabled woman from a ferocious blaze that gutted a triple-decker in Saugus yesterday, fire officials said.
"These guys are remarkable," said Saugus fire chief Jim Blanchard. "It is a cliche, but every day when these guys leave their homes in the morning they don't know if they are going to come home at night. They risk their lives to save lives."
The heroic response started when Saugus Fire Prevention Capt. Tom Nolan, hearing the call on his scanner, pulled up to the scene in his official car at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday. He ran into the smoke-filled Central Street house wearing a uniform shirt and tie but no protective gear after neighbors told him a woman with no legs lived on the second floor.
He found his way to the woman through thick smoke, dragged her to the back of the apartment, removed a window and shouted to an arriving fire company to get a ladder.
As firefighters hoisted a ladder to the second-floor window, off-duty firefighter Bill Cross, who happened to be passing the scene, jumped out of his car, scampered up the ladder in shorts and a t-shirt behind the on-duty jakes to help rescue the woman.
Nolan at this point was overcome by smoke and had to be helped out of the building. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he is being treated for smoke inhalation and carbon-monoxide poisoning. He was reported in stable condition late yesterday, said Blanchard.
Firefighter Steven Rey and Matt Fowler were also taken to Mass. General with minor injuries. Blanchard said they were later released.
The initial alarm was raised by yet another off-duty Saugus firefighter, Jeff Moses, who was cutting grass at a nearby home when he saw the smoke.
"He smelled the smoke, went to the house, rounded up the first-floor occupants and got them out," Blanchard said.
An elderly man and a woman and her toddler escaped from the building unharmed.
Blanchard said this week's dry weather made today a red-flag day for fires. Firefighters from surrounding towns rushed to help knock down the three-alarm blaze, including teams from Lynn, Revere, Malden, Wakefield and Melrose. Brushfires were reported in a number of towns, from Quincy to Norton to Revere.
Republished with permission of The Boston Herald.