Humble hero says instinct took over Quick thinking: Eric Feustel has been recommended for the Citizen's Medal of Honor for helping residents escape a burning Pikesville building.

February 12, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Having flown an Army helicopter into enemy airspace over Iraq, Eric Feustel knew better than to think too hard before dashing into a burning Pikesville apartment building.

"It was my military training that took over. They teach you in the military not to think, to just react to the situation," said Mr. Feustel, who likely will receive a commendation for helping several elderly residents escape a fire last week at the St. Charles at Old Court Apartments.

No one was injured in Tuesday's three-alarmer at 13 Tentmill Lane, touched off by faulty wiring. And fire officials say that much of the credit should go to Mr. Feustel, 25, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and graduate student at the University of Baltimore's business school.

Mr. Feustel said he returned to his apartment about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday, after a day of classes, and almost immediately heard glass shattering. From the sliding glass door of his basement apartment, he looked across a courtyard and saw flames shooting from a second-story window of another building in the apartment complex.

"No thought entered my mind except to grab my coat," he said.

Racing through the snow to the burning building, he was surprised to see some residents standing in the hallway. He told them to leave the building, then dashed from door to door, alerting residents to the fire.

Coming upon the elderly woman who lived in the apartment where the fire had started, he carried her safely outside. And as the woman shivered in the freezing temperatures, he gave her his coat.

Mr. Feustel, who is married and has two young daughters, spent four years in the Army. During the Gulf War he flew 50 hours of combat missions in a reconnaissance helicopter. Now a sergeant in the Army National Guard, he said his military bearing came into play when he barked orders and led the evacuation of the stunned apartment dwellers.

"They didn't realize the extent of the fire, and it's kind of hard to leave all your wordly possessions," he said yesterday. "But when somebody from the outside comes in and starts snapping off commands, it makes making the decision a lot easier."

Battalion Chief Mark F. Hubbard, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department, called the rescue spectacular. "He really put himself in harm's way," he said.

Chief Hubbard said Mr. Feustel has been recommended for the department's Citizen's Medal of Honor, which would be awarded during a spring ceremony.

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