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Lifestyle & Human Interest

First Responders Catch Toddler and Father as They Escape Second-Story Window During Apartment Fire

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There’s never a good time for a house fire, but waking up to one taking over your home certainly can put you at a disadvantage and require you to react quickly.

That seems to be what one father in South Brunswick, New Jersey, had to do on the morning of March 7 when a fire took over the apartment building he was in.

He was home alone with his 3-year-old son at the time.

By the time first responders arrived, the balcony was spewing crackling flames and heavy smoke, and more heavy smoke was drifting out from around various spots in the building.

At first, the responders thought the building was cleared — but then they saw the father at the second-story window. A moment later, he disappeared, and they grew concerned.

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“When he went back in, I didn’t know what he was going back in for, and that kind of concerns us when something like that happens,” Fire Chief Chris Perez said, according to WLS-TV. “So luckily, he came back fairly quickly with the child.”

The father was able to find his toddler through the darkness that was consuming their apartment, get to the window, break through the screen and clear debris blocking their way — but then he was faced with the two-story drop.

Thankfully, three South Brunswick police officers, a firefighter and a nearby construction worker saw the movement and approached the window, urging him to leap and promising to catch the toddler.

“You see a child, I think it just, it just cranks up the adrenaline,” John Penney, a police detective sergeant, told CBS News.

The toddler, crying, was dropped from the window by his father and caught by the first responders’ outstretched arms.

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“It was emotional,” Sgt. William Merkler said. “Obviously, the kid was terrified.”

Then they coached the father down. Eventually he jumped, but he was angled head-first. The officers and a bush under the window broke his fall, and he walked away with only minor injuries.

While everything turned out well for the people involved — the boy suffered only minor injuries also — the scene has stayed with the first responders, and they had nothing but praise for the father’s fast actions.

“The situation was deteriorating quite quickly,” Penney said, according to WLS. “The smoke was pouring out above him. I can still envision that.”

“To get your wits about you like that?” Perez said. “I’m sure he was asleep. To wake up to something like that, it was a good job by him, definitely save his child.”

The boy and his mother were spotted on March 7 after the fire, and while she wouldn’t speak about the ordeal, the boy was clutching a teddy bear and seemed to be doing well.

The fire ultimately was contained, but not before displacing about 40 people, according to information from the Red Cross obtained by WPIX-TV.

“This is what we signed up for,” officer Ryan Bartunek said. “This is the exciting part of the job that, you know, you want to be able to help people and do the right thing.”

The cause of the fire was still under investigation.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking