Tech Saves Double-Amputee Veteran from Burning House
Joseph Spencer, DIRECTV installation tech, ended his work day with a shot of adrenaline. He was one his way home when a neighbor flagged him down.
"I saw smoke from what looked like a backyard barbeque," Joseph said. "My neighbor said the house was on fire. I banged on the front door and yelled, 'Your house is on fire.' I thought I heard someone yell. The neighbor confirmed someone was inside."
Joseph yelled again and didn't hear anything. He ran around to the back of the house and broke the sliding glass door. He yelled again.
"I heard, 'I'm dying in the master bedroom,'" Joseph said. "I immediately broke the window in the next room and cleared the shards."
"I got down on my hands and knees and crawled to locate him. I couldn't see my hands because the smoke was so thick. I found him and said, 'We have to get out of here.' He replied, 'I have no legs.' I pulled him towards the window and then I wasn't feeling well."
Joseph leaned his head out the window to get a few breaths of fresh air. That was enough to allow him to lean down, pick up the man – a double-amputee veteran – and hand him through the window to the other neighbor.
"I crawled through the window next," Joseph said. "I was dizzy and feeling sick. I lay down for 30 seconds and remembered the house was still on fire. I helped get the man to the front yard."
The fire department arrived 3 minutes later. Both Joseph and the resident suffered from smoke inhalation. But they survived.
"When a firefighter or paramedic saves a life during a fire, he or she has accomplished our main priority in firefighting," said Forrest Smith, deputy chief and public information officer of the Mesa Fire and Medical Department. "Many of us during our careers may not have that experience of literally pulling someone out of a fire.
"It’s a career highlight when you directly impact someone by saving their life. Although as paramedics we save lives on a daily basis, showing up at a fire and affecting a rescue has an emotional impact on firefighters. What he did took a lot of courage and required taking a calculated risk. The crews on the scene appreciated his efforts. The fact that he felt he had to do something showed a great deal of character."
The fire department shared that most fatalities occur from smoke inhalation, not burning. If Joseph had not pulled this man from the house, he would have succumbed to the smoke.
"Afterwards it was pretty terrifying. I was relieved that we all got out OK. We were fortunate."
Joseph called his wife down the street and she arrived with their 3 kids. The fire crew and chief told them their dad had saved a man's life.
"They were super proud of me," Joseph said. "My 5-year-old daughter said I was Superman."
Joseph reflected, "It's interesting. I don't really feel like a hero. I was just at the right place at the right time."
This story first appeared on AT&T Insider on 4/20/16 and is authored by Lauren Garner.