‘I had to save the baby:’ Orange County deputy rescues 1-year-old during apartment fire

12 units directly impacted, 24 affected in total, firefighters say

Apartment fire causes evacuations and a heroic rescue

ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orange County sheriff’s deputy was among the first to respond to a fire at an Orlando apartment complex Saturday morning and rescue a baby trapped on a balcony.

Photos from the scene show the charred balconies of several units at the Isles at East Millenia apartments on Lake Fountain Drive, where the American Red Cross said around 6-12 people were displaced and left in need of its help.

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Fire impacts 24 units, displaces at least 6 at Orlando apartment complex. (Orange County Fire Rescue)

A call first went out for the fire at 4:11 a.m., records show.

Deputy William Puzynski was patrolling nearby when he got the call about the two-alarm fire.

“When I got here, we saw the building fully engulfed. It was chaos everywhere,” Puzynski said.

He said he saw families trapped on each floor of the three-story building and that people were hanging on the balconies.

Then he said he heard a baby screaming.

“And then I saw on the third balcony there’s a 1-year-old baby that the mom was trying to get over. At that moment I knew I had to save the baby,” Puzynski said.

With help from his fellow deputies, he scaled the building.

“And then I just climbed up to the third, grabbed the baby and then again I handed the baby down to my partners and they helped me down,” he said. “Afterwards when the mom came and found me, she actually gave me a hug, so it was rewarding.”

As Puzynski was rescuing the baby, Orange County Fire Rescue arrived on scene. Firefighters said seven more people were trapped in the building.

“They threw ladders to the building and they were able to get everybody safely,” OCFR Battaltion Chief Steve Sherrill said.

Fire rescue said it took about an hour from the time they got the call to knock down the fire. Crews stayed on scene hours later monitoring the building for any flare ups.

OCFR said 12 units were impacted and they shut off power to the building, forcing residents in all 24 units to leave.

The apartment management and Red Cross are helping displaced residents find places to stay.

Orange County officials said three people were hurt in the fire, and the Red Cross said a child was among those injured. Two firefighters were injured and transported.

OCFR said it appears the fire started on the first floor and it’s unknown what caused it. The State Fire Marshal is investigating.

“The State Fire Marshal comes out depending on the extent of the damage or if there’s suspicion of illegal activity. At this point that’s under investigation,” OCFR Battalion Chief Chris Henesy said.

As for Puzyknski, he said he’s glad he was there to help.

“It’s a different feeling. Some nights you go home, and you don’t really know if you’ve made a difference, but in situations like this you feel it,” he said.

About the Authors:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.