Man helps firefighters in rescue

Mother, daughter pulled from window in Ellicott City fire

May 17, 2007|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,sun reporters

Before dawn yesterday, Bruce Bardarik pointed Howard County firefighters to the second-floor window where he had just witnessed his neighbor disappear into plumes of smoke.

Bardarik's directions allowed rescuers to quickly locate Beatriz Levi and her 10-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Levi, who were lying unconscious not far from the window.

The 4 a.m. blaze had rapidly spread through their Ellicott City home, trapping them in an upstairs corner.

Last night, Beatriz Levi was listed in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and Elizabeth Levi was listed in good condition at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Bardarik "should get some kind of civilian award," said master firefighter Chuck Wood, who was the second Howard County firefighter to enter the bathroom, where the mother and daughter were found. "Because the front of the home was almost entirely engulfed, we likely would have gone in through the back anyway. But he saved us extra minutes."

Bardarik, 48, lives across the street from the Levis on Stone Hill Drive in Ellicott City, a small street off Route 103. He said his wife awakened him after hearing crackling sounds.

"I heard my wife yelling, `Call 911; there's a fire across the street,'" he said yesterday morning.

Bardarik said he rushed to the burning house and heard Beatriz Levi, 29, banging on a small second-floor window. He said he tried to get into the house by throwing lawn furniture at a rear sliding glass door, but it bounced off. Next, he said, he threw wooden logs, which broke the glass, but not enough for him to get through.

"If I would have broken that glass, I would have gone in there," he said.

Fire Capt. John Bean said that when a crew of seven arrived, a ladder was put up on the wooden back porch to reach the second-floor window. Firefighters broke the window and crawled through. The smoke was so heavy that Bean and Wood groped around in the dark, searching for bodies, Wood said.

After passing Beatriz Levi out the window to firefighters, Wood said that Bean shined his flashlight on the floor and spotted the daughter's face.

"It was pretty intense," Bean said. "We got everybody out."

The captain has been a firefighter in Howard County for 17 years and said that as a recruit, "You think, this is what you are supposed to be doing."

He praised Beatriz Levi for getting herself and her daughter away from the flames.

"If there was any room to be in in that house, it was that room," Bean said. "It was a back room, as far away from the fire as she could get."

The fire went to two alarms, requiring 60 firefighters, and it was brought under control in about 20 minutes. The department was able to respond quickly with a fire engine and a new ladder truck.

The county added the ladder truck and a four-member crew to staff it two weeks ago.

"As a result, seven people showed up instead of three," said William E. Mould, a spokesman for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. "At least now, the victims have a fighting chance."

Deputy Chief Kevin Simmons said that the fire spread rapidly from the front of the house to the back. It was unclear whether the home's smoke detector was working, he said.

Wood said that after the blaze was under control, several firefighters walked across Stone Hill Drive and thanked Bardarik for "the helluva job he did."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.

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