Baby tossed from roof of burning home survives
LAKE GENEVA -- Firefighters and police officers on Tuesday, January 19th were called out to a fire at a home near South and Elm Streets in the City of Lake Geneva -- with occupants trapped.
We're told the fire occurred in a home that is divided into four units. The call for this fire came in shortly after 11:30 a.m.
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The home was fully engulfed when police and firefighters arrived at the scene. Due to the extent of fire and life safety concerns, this fire was upgraded to a two-alarm fire. This brought in additional help from 13 area fire departments and ambulance companies.
Four people who were downstairs were able to get out of the home safely.
Three people who were upstairs (two adult women and a baby) crawled out onto the roof of the home. The baby's mother was able to throw the baby from the roof to an officer waiting on the ground. The officer caught the baby, and the baby wasn't hurt. The baby's mother then jumped from the roof and sustained minor injuries.
A neighbor was able to grab a ladder to help the final woman off the roof. As officers were helping the woman down, the ladder broke, and the woman fell onto the officers on the ground. One officer was injured (the assistant chief of the Lake Geneva Police Department) -- and that officer was taken to the hospital where the officer was treated and released.
Officials say of the seven people at the home at the time of the fire, three were kept overnight at the hospital for treatment and observation (one for smoke inhalation, one for a leg injury and one for observation). They're expected to make a full recovery.
The American Red Cross is helping the displaced residents.
Already battling State IV bone cancer, Dennis Kucia faced another fight on Tuesday.
"The building is shot. I opened the door and the flames hit me so hard. It singed the whole top side of my head. My eyebrow. My whole side. It threw me against the wall," Kucia said.
Kucia's son was one of four people on the first floor who got out safely.
"I grabbed one sock and I was in shorts and a T-shirt," Kucia's son said.
"And there's fire pouring out of this side of the house, and the roof," Kucia said.
Upstairs, three people were trapped on the roof.
"They were standing on the ceiling, holding the baby, screaming. Probably two to three months old," Kucia and his son said.
"The officers that responded saw three people trapped on the roof," Lt. Ed Gritzner with the Lake Geneva Police Department said.
Rob Twyning ran over to help.
"I found a ladder on the side of the garage," Twyning said.
"They had to throw a baby off the roof to one of our officers," Lt. Gritzner said.
A woman was wearing shorts, and she was barefoot.
"The ladder collapsed on the way down," Lake Geneva Fire Chief Brent Connelly said.
"She jumped and hit all three of us and all four of us fell onto the frozen sidewalk," Twyning said.
"We sent a couple people to the hospital for observation," Chief Connelly said.
The home is a total loss. Fortunately, firefighters were able to keep the flames and heat from doing any damage to the home next door.
How the fire started is under investigation.
"It probably started with a space heater," Kucia said.
"You work everyday and then all it takes is one second. And everything is gone. Burned. Gone. Nothing you can do," Kucia's son said.
"We lost everything we own," Kucia said.
"This could have been a very tragic fire, had it occurred during the night. It had a very good start on us and was well involved before we pulled our first line. The police officers and neighbors are to be commended for their rescue efforts that saved lives. We are thankful the injuries were not more serious. Our crews worked very hard on a tough fire, with great help from our mutual aid companies. The MABAS system allowed us to have a neighboring department in our station to handle the second fire. I want to remind everyone to use caution with auxiliary heating units, making sure that clothes or combustibles are at least 36" away. Working smoke detectors and escape plans can make the difference between life and death," Chief Connelly said.
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