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Published: Tuesday, 10/27/2009

3 men rescue woman, child from fire

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Three men - a quick-thinking neighbor and two city workers - are credited with saving the lives of a mother and her young daughter who were trapped inside their burning central city home.

The daring rescue happened just before fire crews arrived on scene Monday morning as a 3-year-old girl screamed for help from a second-floor duplex.

After receiving a frantic cell phone call from the girl's mother, the neighbor, Aaron Stewart, 43, rushed from his home and dragged a ladder to the structure by himself. Then city worker Ernest Persley climbed onto the ladder's rungs even before it was in place on the side of the home.

"When we pulled up, the kid was hanging out of the window, yelling for help while the fire was coming off the roof," said Mr. Persley, a seven-year veteran of Toledo's Department of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor.

"So I jumped out of the truck before it stopped rolling and grabbed the ladder that [Mr. Stewart] was putting over. I climbed up and got the kid down and then he helped the mother get out of the window."

Mr. Persley, 41, along with another city worker, Eddie Mims, 59, and Mr. Stewart, moved in unison to bring the mother and daughter to safety.

Sherese Waites, who is believed to be in her 30s, and her daughter, Karynn Waites, were trapped in an upstairs bedroom, cut off from the staircase by thick smoke.

Mr. Stewart, a laid-off autoworker from Northwood, said he was watching television when Ms. Waites called him on the cell phone saying there was a fire in the house.

"Then I ran to the staircase but I couldn't get to them because there was too much smoke, so I took a ladder from the back of the yard; then I started putting it up against her bedroom window," he said.

"As I was putting the ladder against the house, a city worker just climbed up the ladder and handed me the baby and then we helped the mother get out," he said.

Fire crews arrived at the two-story wood-frame house, 1659 Macomber St. near Rosedale Avenue, at 11:26 a.m., three minutes after they were dispatched at

11:23 a.m., according to the fire department.

"By the time we pulled up, the neighbor from downstairs and a couple of city workers had put up a ladder to a second-floor and rescued the mother and her child," Battalion Fire Chief Bill Hickey said. "Then we put out the fire within about 15 minutes."

Ms. Waites and her daughter were then taken to Toledo Hospital as a precaution to be checked out for smoke inhalation. They were treated and released, a hospital spokesman said.

Chief Hickey said the fire started from a short in an electric extension cord Ms. Waites was using to power the lights and a heater on the second floor.

The cord, which stretched from the basement to the second floor, overheated and burned through its insulation, causing an electric short that then ignited some clothes that were lying atop of it, the battalion chief said.

Damage from the fire was estimated at $30,000, he said.

The Lucas County Auditor's Web site lists the owner of the house as Darrel Phillips. The house was built in 1913, according to the Web site.

Contact Mike Sigov at:

sigov@theblade.com

or 419-724-6089.



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