MESA, Ariz. - Two children were rushed to a hospital after they were saved from an apartment fire in Mesa, and weeks later, the man who saved them is being honored.
According to Mesa Fire & Medical, crews responded to the first-alarm fire on Feb. 18 near Gilbert Road and Southern Avenue and found two second-floor apartments engulfed in flames.
Officers say a man at a nearby car wash ditched his vehicle, jumped a wall and rescued a 2-year-old from the unit. He handed off the toddler to an officer who had helped break the windows by throwing rocks through them.
The second child was also rescued by the good Samaritan, Jonathon Baez, who went inside the second-story apartment. He handed off the 6-year-old to a police officer who stood on top of a shed.
Both children were taken to a hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
Mesa police released body camera video showing the two rescues. Officers say "if it wasn't for the citizen who assisted, the outcome of this incident may have been different … they all agreed he went above and beyond to assist in getting these children to safety."
Ladder crews were able to attack the fire from the roof and prevent it from damaging other apartments. Over 50 firefighters and police officers responded to the fire.
Weeks after the incident, Jonathon Baez was recognized by Mesa city officials for his "heroic efforts."
"Mayor John Giles, Councilmember Mark Freeman, Councilmember David Luna, Assistant City Manager John Pombier, Fire Chief Mary Cameli and Police Chief Ken Cost all personally recognized Jonathon for his extraordinary efforts and selfless acts of bravery," a news release read.
"People act differently whenever things happen, but I didn’t even expect to act like that myself," Baez said. He's still shaken up after saving the two little girls and a dog from the burning apartment.
"I had already tried to get in through the front so I was in my head like, ‘Am I going to really let these kids burn in here?’ So once I got the chance in the back, I wasn’t going to let it go," he said.
He rewatched the rescue via body cam, and when asked why he wanted to help, he says it was just the right thing to do and that he couldn’t sit by and watch.
"When I heard the kids, I definitely thought about my daughter so I would rather burn myself than to just stand there and watch them burn," Baez said. "When I was in there, I heard a cough so I grabbed some air like I was going in the pool and I dove back in there and I heard the baby starting to cry and I reached forward i was telling her to come towards me, but I don’t think she was listening, but I think her hand was out … because I just felt her hand and then I just pulled her towards me and I just took her out," Baez said.
He’s planning on reuniting with the family and can’t wait to give the girls a big hug, he said.
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