Fire

Kansas City Firefighters saved a baby from a burning building in the downtown area after the child’s father called 911.

When Firehouse 35 firefighters arrived at the scene, the father was in the street yelling frantically. Firefighter Burton Justice recalls, “The man who called 911 was in the street, screaming and telling us his baby was still in the apartment, so we went in immediately.”

Justice went up to the second floor where the fire was, and immediately noticed that the apartment was quickly filling with smoke. After some searching, he found the infant in his crib.

Justice said, “He was unconscious when I found him, and I thought he might be dead. So I stumbled down the stairs as fast as possible.” After getting down to the ground, paramedics took over and attempted to revive the child.

Battalion Chief Randy Mullens said that although fighting fires is an important part of the KCPD, “Life safety is always first, period. The loss of life is the absolute most difficult part of the job.”

After handing over the baby to paramedics, Justice got news that the baby was alive despite inhaling smoke. He said, “I remember taking off my mask and hearing the baby crying. The best way I can describe the feeling is like wanting to cry and laugh at the same time.”

After clearing the apartment, other firefighters worked to put out the fire. Mullens said, “Dealing with citizens is the hardest part, but assigning companies in any fire is a hard management task as well.”

In the 25 years since the fire, Justice became one of the most experienced firefighters at Firehouse 35. Even though he has fought countless fires, this one still makes Justice feel like he made a real difference. He said, “It was an amazing feeling to save that baby. I still wonder what happened to him.”

Firehouse 35 is part of district 105, which is the busiest district for fires. Justice said, “We do deal with fires, but it is only about 10% of the job. The rest is emergency care of all sorts.” Mullens said he works with more fires and about 25% of his tasks are fire related.

Justice had only been with the KCPD for about a year when he fought the 10th and Paseo fire. When asked about how his job has changed over the past quarter century, Justice said, “After a few years, I stopped wishing for fires to fight. You take into consideration that someone lost something. It is a real tragedy.”

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