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Topeka rescue crews credit teamwork for saving child trapped in fire

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 9:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Quick action by Topeka firefighters and paramedics last Tuesday saved the life of a two-year-old trapped in a structure fire.

Crews responded to an apartment fire on SW Polk August 4th.

”Initially it was very chaotic,” said Topeka Fire shift commander Chris Herrera, “We did know we had a rescue, dispatch was able to tell us that while we were in route, so the guys kind of stepped up their game a little bit.“

Topeka Fire Lieutenant Matt Frehe said, “A rescue situation, you really don’t know how you’re going to react, you just got to rely on your training.”

When they arrived, neighbors were scrambling to help a toddler trapped on the second floor.

”I got to the corner of the house and the mother of the child came around the corner and said ‘my child is in this house still and she’s right up there in that bedroom',” said Frehe.

He also has kids of his own and said he knew he needed to react quickly. ”Hopped up the ladder got to the window, got to the fire door, and about two feet of it was burnt off. Went on around it and came to a bunk bed reached up to see if she was in the bunkbed, she wasn’t so I started crawling again and just crawled right over her. She was unconscious and limp.”

He was able to carry the two-year-old down the ladder where an AMR team was waiting to give CPR.

Paramedic Chris Stanley said, “Having that advanced life support there for that child, if it hadn’t been that, I don’t know if the outcome would be what it is today.”

The girl was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Responding crews said it was the team effort that led to the positive outcome.

”All teams from Stormont Vail, to AMR, to Topeka Fire Department it showed on that scene,” said Stanley, “This is why we train together, this is why we work together.“

Herrera added, ”We come in everyday to make a difference and to help people and that day fortunately, all the pieces of the puzzle came together, and we were able to make a difference and help somebody.”

As Frehe reflects on that chaotic day, he said the emotions come pouring back.

”It’s a bad situation, it was. The kid is going to make it I hear, but ultimately six to seven people lost their home,” he said, “I don’t think I’m a hero. The soldiers fighting over in Iraq and Afghanistan are heroes to me. I just did what I hope any other fireman would have done.”

The two-year-old is no longer in critical condition. Fire investigators said the blaze was started accidentally by a child playing with a lighter.

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