Streator Police Sgt. Robert Wood made quite the catch on Saturday.
He wasn’t fishing, but was instead assisting at a fire when a newborn baby was carefully dropped from a second-story window to escape the smoke.
Wood, along with officers Chris Osborn and Drew Fritts, were first on the scene to a structure fire at Streator Manor Apartments, 404 Richards St., on Saturday morning.
Wood recalled seeing the entire second floor in flames when the officers ran to the back of the building as the initial call said people were trapped on the second floor.
Officers yelled up to the residents to push out the window and were then told they would need to drop the baby, who was around a month old.
“At the moment, I didn’t think anything of it,” Wood said. “Afterwards I realized how big of a thing that was.”
The infant was swaddled tightly in a blanket as the renters leaned over the window as far as they could and dropped the child into the hands of Wood, who was about 13 feet below.
He was able to catch the child as the other officers had their hands below Wood’s as a backup. Wood said the blanket kept the baby secure during the fall and officers were able to protect the baby's body on the fall before handing the infant over to Advanced Medical Transport personnel.
They then helped the other two individuals on the second floor make the leap back to the ground who were also checked by AMT.
First responders were also able to rescue Carla Laney and Baby, her Maltese canine companion, from the first floor.
Laney recalled police had knocked on her window broke it to give her an escape route.
“They got me out safely. The fire department and police did a wonderful job,” Laney said. “They got me through a window with broken glass and I didn’t even get a scratch.”
The same was said of 13 newborn puppies born just a day prior that were on the second floor. The dog on the floor escaped the fire early on, but firefighters were able to make their way to the second floor when the fire was under control as they searched the structure and found them together in a crate.
“All of the agencies worked very well together for a very successful outcome,” said Streator Fire Chief Gary Bird of the work between firefighters, police, AMT personnel and the Grand Ridge Fire Protection District.
Wood agreed noting it was a tense, but successful day for all.
“I think me and the entire shift took a step back and a breath,” Wood said. “We did a heck of a job. We got everyone out of there.”
Why only one exit?
The fire filled the main stairwell in the middle of the building, blocking off the main entrance and exit.
Bird said residential structures that are only two stories are allowed to count windows as a second means of egress if they are the correct size. The windows in the apartment building were the correct size to be considered a second exit.