A grieving neighborhood and a saddened city are rallying to assist a family who lost everything they owned and something infinitely more valuable — a six-month-old baby girl — in a fire Monday.
According to Kingston Fire Department Assistant Chief Chris Rea, the call for the fire at 181 Wall St. came in at 3:55 p.m. Units were at the two-story, three-apartment wooden structure within three minutes, Rea said.
“The kids notified an adult about a fire, and the adult brought two of the kids out down into the street, and then attempted to return for the baby, but couldn’t get back into the apartment,” said Rea. The baby was sleeping in the bedroom.”
Rea said fire officials believe the blaze was accidental at this time. “The fire started in front room of the building,” Rea said. “Right now we are looking at it like an accidental fire. We haven’t determined the exact cause of it.”
In the second-floor apartment at the time was an adult and three kids; the adult and two of the children, both under age 5, made it out. Rea said the names of the victims were not being released to the press.
When they were told a baby was trapped in the building, firefighters went into action. “[The responding firefighters] were told an occupant was trapped. [The fact that it was a baby] only changes their search; it doesn’t change their mentality,” Rea said. “They entered — one by the door, and one by outside window on ladders off the truck through a back window — but [they] were pushed out by heat and fires. There was enough heat to penetrate the turn-out gear. The fire was floor to ceiling in the front room.”
Rea said the fire was very intense. “[The firefighters] were pushed out by the flames and heat our of both entrances, they had to get a hand line [fire hose] and go in under the protection of the fire hose to protect themselves from the fire as they were going in.”
Rea said there were four firefighters in apartment, but then the fire got above them while they were searching into the roof area crawl space. Rea said one firefighter, Phil Haber, found the infant victim and handed him off to a second firefighter, Jerry Rutledge, who brought the victim out. Haber then went back in to continue searching and when heat became unbearable, he got out through a second-story window onto a first-story roof, Rea said.
The fire was under control within 30 minutes, said Rea; it took five hours to completely put it out.