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Shannon Valley resident in critical condition following rescue from fire
Shannon Valley resident in critical condition following rescue from fire

Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedic Mike McCart saved two people from this burning apartment, photographed at 12:23 a.m., just minutes after the residents were pulled from the blaze.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (March 25, 2010) — Only minutes before their apartment was consumed by fire, assistant chief paramedic Mike McCart climbed into the second floor of a burning apartment complex and rescued a man and woman trapped inside.

McCart, who was dressed in his paramedic uniform rather than firefighters’ bunker gear, said he was on the scene just after a Waynesville fire truck which arrived at 12:16 a.m. That truck arrived seven minutes after the blaze was reported to the 911 Center at 12:09 a.m.

“When I got on scene there was Waynesville PD and one fire truck,” McCart said. “They were trying to clear the building and they were trying to find out which apartment because the people who were contacting the communications center on their cell phone kept giving us the apartment number but we had no idea where the apartment was.”

Eventually firefighters and police were able to find a resident who knew where the man and woman lived. It turned out to be on the second floor directly above the fire, and their apartment was rapidly filling with smoke.

“Somebody said that they had contact with them on the back so I grabbed the ladder off the truck to carry it around back to give them a hand. I placed the ladder, busted out the window with the end of the ladder, and climbed up the ladder,” McCart said. “I got the woman out first, carried her down the ladder, handed her off to the firefighters and the Waynesville police officers who were on scene … The gentleman, you couldn’t see 18 inches into the room through the smoke. He had a flashlight so I directed him toward me to the window, got him out on my shoulder. One of the firefighters came up the ladder, supported me and the two of us pulled the guy down and handed him off.”

The man and woman were transported to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in serious condition with smoke inhalation; the man’s condition has since been downgraded to critical and he’s been sent to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

Three other people were also injured at the fire scene.

“We had one pregnant lady and her husband were treated and released on the scene, and one firefighter is being transported,” McCart said.

Pulaski County Ambulance District Director Gary Carmack said the extent of the firefighter’s injuries isn’t yet known. He was struck in the neck by a fire nozzle and was able to walk to the ambulance but was then transported due to the need for an X-ray, Carmack said.

McCart is a former firefighter on what was once the Waynesville-St. Robert Fire Department with nearly two decades experience in emergency services, and the Thursday morning rescue wasn’t his first time pulling people out of a burning building.

“I still stay active with all the rescue stuff with the Missouri Task Force,” McCart said. “It’s just part of the job. All these people out here just want to do what’s right and help. If we did it for the glory we’d find a different job.”

Waynesville Rural Fire Chief Doug Yurecko said a representative of the state fire marshal’s office is on the scene of the fire but no cause has yet been determined.

“We don’t have a good take on the area of origin yet without getting in there and looking at everything,” Yurecko said.

Yurecko’s department recently became a full-time fire service; St. Robert has had full-time firefighters only a few years longer. McCart served as an area firefighter when both departments were far smaller, and said there’s no way the two people he rescued would have survived before five years ago.

“This was the right crew with the right people at the right place at the right time,” McCart said. “Having paid firefighters is so much faster in getting water on the fire quicker … The only thing that saved those two people’s lives was having the right rescue personnel here with the right equipment to get them out.”

The major problem with an all-volunteer or even mostly volunteer department is response time, McCart said.

“If this would have been all volunteers, with the response time that took to the department to get a truck, this whole building would have been on the ground and those two people would not have gotten out,” McCart said. “Five years ago, because of the response times, there would have been no saving this structure and we would have been trying to save the structures next to it.”

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