‘True heroes:’ St. Cloud firefighters describe saving special needs patients during house fire

Cause of two house fires from Saturday night under investigation

ST. CLOUD, Fla. – St. Cloud firefighters said it was a miracle no one was hurt during a fire at a special needs home last weekend.

News 6 sat down with the St. Cloud Fire Rescue crew who responded to the fire early Saturday morning. They said it was one of the toughest calls they have ever responded to.

"We had to push into the house pretty quickly because we knew there might be victims in there," SCFR firefighter and paramedic Tyler Graves said.

The firefighters said they relied on their training when they got the call to respond to the fire at a special needs home on Alabama Avenue. When they arrived on scene, they found flames shooting through the roof.

Graves said the house was filled with dark smoke.

“We were hit with a wall of smoke. It’s probably the thickest smoke I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t see anything,” Graves said.

Crews knew they had to move quickly. They were told there were six special needs patients inside the home. Some were bedridden or on ventilators and they couldn't get out of the house by themselves.

“I think we all just stuck to our training and knew that we had to do our jobs to save those people and it was kinda a miracle that everything happened the way that it did,” Graves said.

Firefighter and paramedic William Tilford said he had to feel his way round the rooms to find the patients.

"I searched a few rooms and then entering the last room that I searched and I found a victim," Tilford said.

SCFR said a nurse got two patients out. Firefighters carried four patients down the stairs to safety while crews battled the flames.

Firefighter Lauren O'Brien said this was was her first structure fire. She has been on the job for a year.

"Smokey as I was breaking the window and the glass, the fire flashed over on top of my head in the attic and you can't see in front of you with all of the smoke," O'Brien said.

Minutes after responding to the house fire on Alabama Avenue, SCFR got a call about a second house fire less than two blocks away on Georgia Avenue.

A family of three lost everything in that fire.

The cause of both fires remains under investigation by the State Fire Marshal.

SCFR Assistant Chief Chad Peterson said this was one of the toughest nights he can recall. His crew said it a miracle that no one was hurt during both fires.

"I don't think proud can describe it. These guys risked everything to save those kids. These guys are the true heroes. It's unbelievable what they did," Peterson said.

The St. Cloud community is rallying behind both families who lost everything in these fires.

The Cobblestone Courtyard held a spaghetti dinner benefit Wednesday night to raise money for the victims. The owner, Angie Redmand, said they raised almost $6,000 to split between the two families.

She said they are St. Cloud proud and will continue to help these families in their time of need.

“As a community, we can work together to find them a place to call home as they rebuild their lives,” Redmand said.

A GoFundMe was started to help the family that runs the special needs home.

A GoFundMe was also started to help the family of the Georgia Avenue house fire.

About the Author: