Firefighters hailed as heroes Year after fire, family from Odenton says thanks with a firehouse dinner

February 20, 1996|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

Rolling black smoke and fire didn't stop Tod Baldwin from pulling Deirdre King from her burning home a year ago. And 10 inches of snow Friday didn't stop the King family from coming to the firehouse to say thank you.

Last week, the family visited the Odenton Volunteer Fire Station and brought a full dinner for Mr. Baldwin and the crew that fought the blaze and saved Ms. King's life. Family members said that although they lost their 68-year-old father, Herbert King Sr., in the fire, they were grateful they didn't lose more.

"It could have been all three of us," said Sonia King, who was in the house with her sister and father when the fire broke out Feb. 17, 1995.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m. that night, Sonia said her father called to her while she was downstairs watching television. When she went upstairs to check on him, fire was all around the reclining chair where he lay. She tried to pick him up, but burned her face.

Sonia went downstairs and called 911, but soon after the operator told her to hold on, the phone went dead. She ran to a neighbor's house, but no one answered. She ran to another house and called 911 when she remembered that Deirdre, who is developmentally disabled, was in her bedroom.

"I went upstairs and there was black smoke everywhere," Sonia remembered. "I called to her three times and finally she answered."

When firefighters arrived at the house on Chapelgate Drive, they could see Deirdre, then 29, hanging out of the second-story window.

"My first thought was, 'Don't jump. Please don't jump.' " said Mr. Baldwin, a firefighter at the Odenton station. " 'Just give me a second, and I'll be there.' "

He pulled a ladder from the truck and climbed nearly 20 feet to the window.

"I tried to coax her out and she wouldn't come. I went into the room and I grabbed her by the back of her shirt and pants, put her in the window, got back on the ladder and pulled her out."

Firefighters could not save Mr. King, who they later found had fallen asleep while smoking.

Deirdre, Sonia and their mother, Odessa, were displaced for six months as workers repaired the smoke and fire damage to their home. The fire ruined almost the entire second floor of the house, but passed over Deirdre's room because her door was closed, firefighters said.

On Friday night, The King family brought barbecued chicken, greens, potato salad, vegetable platters and drinks to treat the firefighters, who they call heroes.

Capt. Roy Hodgeson said this is the first time a family has ever recognized his firefighters for their work.

"This has probably meant more to a lot of people in here than many of you will ever realize," he said to the family. "The idea of being able to stand here the next morning and know there was a difference made is all we've ever asked for."

To Mr. Baldwin, who invited his own family to the celebration, the thank you meant even more.

"I've never felt so important or so meaningful to somebody else," he said. "For them to come down here and do this because we did our jobs one night I don't think words can explain. It's just a feeling."

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