Firefighter describes saving boy, others
Flames were shooting out windows and panicked tenants were screaming for help just before 1 a.m. yesterday when Boston fire Lt. Glenn McGillivray and his fellow jakes on Engine 42 arrived at a six-alarm blaze at a Roxbury apartment complex on Westminster Avenue and Wardman Road.
In the harrowing moments that ensued, the 22-year veteran helped save three of the 15 people rescued, including 6-year-old Xavier Lamb and his grandmother, Judith.
What follows is McGillivray’s account of a fire that police say was sparked by a botched suicide attempt. As McGillivray told the Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo, it’s a miracle everybody made it out alive:
As we approached Westminster Avenue, I saw heavy smoke on the street. We pulled up to the front of the building, and I observed heavy fire that was evident in the first-floor window on the corner, and approximately nine occupants of the building who were screaming to be rescued from various ledges and windows. It was then a matter of trying to keep them calm. I was pleading with everybody not to jump because I knew we had a lot of help coming, and we would be able to make a lot of rescues over ladders.
On the Wardman Street side, I noticed the boy’s grandmother. She was sitting on the third-floor window ledge, hanging on with one hand, and dangling him from the other as she screamed for help. I asked her not to let go.
It happened very fast. My concern was being in the right spot for when she dropped him so that I could at least break his fall if I couldn’t actually make a catch. I positioned myself underneath him and then yelled up for her to let him go. His arms and legs were flailing as he came down, but miraculously, thankfully, he just came right into my arms. He didn’t say anything.
There were bystanders there, and I immediately handed him off because at that point, I knew I had to worry about the grandmother, as well as other people.
Everybody was extremely nervous with the amount of smoke, fearing that … possibly with another explosion, the fire (would be) coming right at them. We just tried to keep them calm enough in order for us to be able to do our job to get the ladders up to evacuate them down to the ground.
Then I moved over to Westminster Street to assist Rescue 2 in another ladder rescue. … It was instantaneous, quickly moving from one rescue to the next.
(The most hair-raising) was the boy; he was that young. Everybody wants to protect their children the best they can, so we try to do the same.
I saw him later on the sidewalk with a police officer. I gave him a pat on the back. I shook his hand. I asked him his name and told him my name and that I was very happy to meet him and happy he was safe and sound and everything worked out.”
By Marie Szaniszlo/Boston Hearld