Firefighter uses himself as human shield to protect grandmother from flames

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 2:53 PM CDT
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NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WJAR) – A horrifying scene took place in Massachusetts Monday morning when a fire broke out in a home, trapping a grandmother and her grandson on the third floor.

The grandson, Justin Ramos, said they woke up to a wall of smoke.

“I knew that I could make it out safe, but she was wheelchair bound, so it was tough for me knowing she was so close but so far away,” Ramos said.

Ramos was able to evacuate from the third-floor window, but his grandmother had no choice but to wait for help.

When firefighters arrived, District Fire Chief Scott Gomes directed Lt. Steven Torres during the operation.

With no water support inside the home, Torres had to use his own body to protect the grandmother from the flames.

“He was able to shield her with his gear, and he put himself between the fire and her, and been able to get her out of that,” Gomes said. “Searching a room or a floor on fire without a hose line, it’s one of the most dangerous things you can do.”

The fire was so powerful, it ripped through most of Torres’ protective gear. The gear is meant to sustain heat up to 1,100 degrees, and it’s now out of service.

The gauge on Torres’ oxygen tank burned away and the straps were also damaged.

It was a scary situation for all involved, but Gomes said it’s one they’ve all experienced before and will again.

“The crews of Engine 1 and Ladder 1 did one of the most dangerous operations you can do as a firefighter and they did it without hesitation; they didn’t even think twice,” Gomes said.