Firefighters pull woman from burning home in Niles

Published 9:21 am Monday, May 23, 2016

Niles firefighters say everything came together perfectly to allow them to rescue a woman from a burning home in the 600 block of North Third Street Friday evening.

Capt. Don Wise, of the Niles Fire Department, said he was off duty when he heard dispatchers report a call of a possible structure fire shortly after 7 p.m. A passerby reported seeing smoke coming from a residence.

Upon arrival, Wise saw a neighbor using a garden hose to spray water on the fire. Heavy smoke was coming out of the windows, he said.

An officer with the Niles Police Department learned from neighbors that a woman and dog might still be inside the house. He relayed that information to the responding firefighters.

Wise and Lt. Scott Rieth, of the Niles Fire Department, searched the home and found a woman unconscious but breathing in a bedroom on the first floor.

Wise said they were able to remove the woman from the home and have her transported by SMCAS ambulance to an area hospital.

“She is still in critical condition in the hospital,” Wise said Sunday morning.

A dog died in the fire.

Wise said it was his first time rescuing a person from a burning structure in 30 years in the business.

“Normally everybody is already out or the person is dead,” he said. “When you actually do find someone inside it is a surprise because that is not the norm. You have to treat it as if there is someone in there every time because of the one time that they are and speed is of the essence to get them out.

“You don’t even think because your training just kicks in. You do what you’ve practiced over and over to do. That is what we are paid and trained to do. For us it’s our job.”

Wise and Chief Larry Lamb, of the Niles Fire Department, both said everything came together correctly to make it possible to give the woman a chance at life, from police interviewing neighbors to the ambulance being on scene quickly.

Niles Township Fire also provided assistance.

“A lot of this is timing,” said Lamb, who was out of town for a high school track meet at the time of the fire. “Not many times in my career is the timing right where we can respond quickly enough with the right amount of personnel and aggressively make that type of rescue. So when it happens it is special.”

The fire remains under investigation. Lamb said it is not believed to be suspicious.

Lamb and Wise declined to identify the woman.