Charlotte Firefighters Rescue Victims Trapped In House Fire

Published on May 20, 2024

Firefighters from Charlotte Fire Engine 3

Firefighters from Charlotte Fire Engine 3 assist in the rescue of two Charlotte residents. 

By: Kevin Campbell

“Help! I’m here! Help, help!” Those were the words Charlotte Fire Captain Matt Clark heard from a woman trapped in her home.

On Sunday, May 19, crews from Charlotte Fire responded to a house fire at the 700 block of Allister Road in Charlotte. A call to Charlotte Fire Alarm came in at 9:23 a.m. On the phone with a Charlotte Fire telecommunicator John Sibray was a resident trapped in their home.

In three minutes from the initial call, Charlotte Fire Battalion Chief Brian Beatty was on the scene.

“I could see the smoke showing and confirmed this was a working fire. Alarm was on the phone the whole time with the caller advising they couldn’t get out,” Beatty said.

Seconds from Beatty’s arrival, Engine 23 arrived followed by Engine 42, Engine 29, Engine 3, Ladder 23 and Tower 3.

“Our first instinct was to go to the front door. We forced the front door, and it was not an entryway. It was completely blocked,” Beatty said.

With constant communication flowing from the trapped person to Sibray in the Charlotte Fire alarm center, the caller relayed that they were trapped near a window.

“The reported victim was somewhere in the front room. We knew they were to the right of the front door,” Charlotte Fire Captain Matt Clark, Engine 29, said. “From the dispatcher, they gave us all that information and Engine 23 started breaching one of the windows to the right.”

Firefighters breached the window and could see fire, and the home was filled with heavy smoke.

In seconds, Sibray relayed that the caller said, “Not that window!”

700 block of Allister Rd where Charlotte firefighters rescued two residents.

700 block of Allister Rd where Charlotte firefighters rescued two residents.

“When I heard that, I knew, OK, we’ve got to be one window back, but to the right of the front door, so I tell my guys, ‘Let’s clear this window. Let’s go in there,’” Clark said.

Using a thermal imaging camera, Clark scanned the area. The camera is a vital tool that helps firefighters see through smoke and monitor the fire’s spread, so they can quickly visualize a plan of attack, locate hot spots, and save lives.

As this was happening, other firefighters were entering to attack the fire in the home.

On Clark’s crew was Firefighter Jimmy Mengel.

“We were planning on being second due engine, so we were expecting to do water supply. When Engine 42 showed up on the other side closer to the hydrant, we knew that we were going to be more of a rescue mode,” Mengel said.

Upon the arrival of Engine 3, Beatty assigned them to be part of the rescue crew.

“When you hear two people are trapped, it raises the stakes. Chief Beatty came on the radio and assigned us to help with the search. We just grabbed our tools and walked quickly down the street and got to the house,” said Charlotte Fire Firefighter Matthew Bosnick, Engine 3.

Alongside Bosnick was Firefighter Tanner Mullis, also from Engine 3.

With the second window open and hoping for a response, Clark yelled, “Charlotte Fire Department!” With great relief, he heard, “Help! I’m here! Help! Help!”

It was the voice of an elderly woman coming from inside the smoke-filled home.

“I got into the window. I felt the couch and then I felt the first victim,” Mengel said. “I turned around, and they were both sitting on the couch with a blanket over the top of them. The female couldn’t move at all.”

Both people were covered under a blanket to try and protect themselves from suffocating in the smoke which had filled the home.

Moments later, Firefighter Mullis had entered the window too and was helping with the rescue.

“I got in there and by that time that I was telling them, ‘Hey, we’re going out this window.’ Firefighter Mullis from Engine 3 was on top of the couch, kind of at the window, half on the couch,” Mengel said.

In seconds, Mullis was in place to help in the rescue.

The crew from Charlotte Fire Engine 29.

The crew from Engine 29: Top left clockwise Captain Matt Clark, Firefighter Jimmy Mengle, Firefighter Duncan O’Sullivan, Engineer Daniel Melton.

“I didn't realize she was sitting right there for a second, and then I just picked her up and handed her to Matt (Bosnick),” Mullis said.

To help expedite the rescue, a ladder was placed at the window to help ease the removal of both patients from the home.

On the other side of the window, waiting on the ladder and on the ground were more firefighters ready to receive the first injured victim.

“There are about four of us receiving them from Mullis and Mengel. Jimmy (Mengel) was lowering her out to the window. We took her and ended up carrying her out, and then repeated the exact same process with the male,” Clark said.

“It’s a very proud moment watching the work of these firefighters because you’ve got somebody on the other end of the line with alarm sitting there saying, ‘Help, help. We’re underneath a blanket. We cannot get out. We don’t even know which way is out,’ and within a very short period of time, we’ve got two victims coming out the front window,” Beatty said.

“We train for these situations. You feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do because you’ve trained to do it so many times,” Clark said. “When we’re doing them, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do. You kind of just feel like you scored the goal.”

“It was nice to know it helped someone out when they needed it,” Mullis said. “It wasn’t me though. It was all of us, everybody, it’s a team.”

Both patients were transported to an area hospital for smoke inhalation and are expected to recover. Charlotte Fire investigators determined that the fire began in the kitchen, but the origin of the fire is unclear. It took firefighters 20 minutes to control the fire.

While Charlotte Fire answers hundreds of emergencies a day, this is just one of the many heroic acts of the women and men of the Charlotte Fire Department.

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