At around 5:00 a.m., firefighters responded to a call about an apartment building up in flames. When first responders arrived, the blaze was raging and families were stuck on the third floor. Firefighters soon found themselves “catching babies like footballs.”
In the early hours on Jan. 3, DeKalb Fire Department responded to a massive fire that ripped through the Avondale Forest Apartments located on 290 Pinetree Circle, in Decatur, Georgia.
Many families were trapped on the third floor, including Lance Ragland and his eight children. Firefighters moved quickly to help rescue the family.
Speaking to WGCL, Capt. Peckrul recalled, “It was hot. You could feel it from the ground, and they don’t have the gear on so they were just ready for us to come get them.”
Capt. Jackie Peckrul was climbing up a ladder to the family when she quickly noticed something.
“The original plan was to get up on the balcony with them to assist them on the ladder and have somebody else bring them down,” Capt. Peckrul told Inside Edition.
However, the raging flames caused the panicked parents to make a risky decision—they tossed the baby down to Capt. Peckrul without warning.
“I got about halfway up and I look up and somebody was dropping a baby to me,” she said.
In that terrifying moment, Capt. Peckrul thought, “Lord, let me catch this baby.” As soon as the baby was tossed, Peckrul’s hands “came off the ladder,” and she caught the 4-week-old baby safely.
But that’s not all that happened. While Ragland was about to climb down the ladder, he tossed his toddler down to firefighter Captain Scott Stroup.
Capt. Stroup managed to catch the child but twisted his knee in the process. The incredible rescue was captured by helmet camera video.
“We were catching babies like a football―literally,” Capt. Eric Jackson told CBS News. “We had a couple firefighters catching babies, so it was just really incredible.”
“There’s no better feeling in the world,” Capt. Peckrul, a mom of triplets, told Fox 5 Atlanta. “Never want to see any parent lose a child.”
Although Capt. Peckrul was being praised for her bravery, she doesn’t consider herself a hero.
“I don’t think any of us do. It’s our job and we are so fortunate to work for DeKalb County who prides training and equipment,” she said. “I couldn’t be anything else and it makes me a better mom. And being a mom probably makes me a better firefighter.”
According to NBC, the blaze injured 12 people, including 8 children, and 79 residents were displaced. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.
“Great job by all hands operating on this fire as several lifesaving grabs were made that night,” wrote Local 1492 on their Facebook page. The department also posted the dramatic video of the rescue made by Capt. Stroup.
Kudos to these firefighters for their quick and brave response!