`God delayed us to put us in that alley'

Just in time, trash crew arrives to aid woman jumping from burning rowhouse

Maryland

August 04, 2006|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

The woman was hanging out of a second-floor window surrounded by black smoke. Her rowhouse was on fire, and she was screaming that she couldn't breathe. She said she was pregnant and that she was going to jump.

That's when Baltimore garbage truck driver Welford Johnson and his two-man crew ditched their trash collection duties and ran to help the woman, who did jump and whose fall they helped to break.

"If we hadn't been there, there wouldn't have been anyone there to catch her," Johnson recalled yesterday. "We caught enough of her to save her from breaking her neck or fracturing her skull."

The fire in the 2200 block of Wilkens Ave. in Southwest Baltimore was reported about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Johnson and crew members Eugene Thomas and Obray Alexander had barely started their route when they heard the woman calling for help.

"God delayed us to put us in that alley so we could save her," said Johnson, explaining that an especially large load of trash in another alley had slowed his crew's progress. "That women needed help, and we did what we had to do."

Two other people, including a 15-year-old boy, jumped out of second-floor windows before the city employees could help them, Johnson said.

The garbage collectors also knocked on the doors of neighbors who were sleeping. Johnson said he had to kick in the window of a basement to wake a young man and his girlfriend.

The woman, a man and another woman were taken from the burning house to hospitals, where they were treated for minor injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation, said Fire Department spokesman Chief Kevin Cartwright.

A woman who lives next door to the house also received medical treatment, as did two firefighters who suffered thermal burns when perspiration on their bodies got so hot that it turned to steam, Cartwright said.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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