CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Crews say the day a person needs to call 911, it’s one of the worse days of their life.
Charlotte Fire didn’t get that call for help right away.
“There was some sort of delay in dialing 911, a five-to-six-minute delay, so we were already behind the eight ball with that,” a CFD communications officer described Thursday, a week removed from the 5-Alarm fire in the SouthPark community.
That delay is still part of the investigation.
When the Ladder 6 crew arrived, it was just smoke coming out of the building.
“In just a few minutes, everything changed,” said Capt. Brian Benson. “Smoke got heavier; we started hearing reports of people trapped in the building. So, my crew transitioned from a firefighting role to a rescue role.”
One firefighter was standing on the third floor.
“I spotted the victims, and I heard the screaming,” added Chris McMillan, a firefighter with Ladder 6. “That’s when I noticed the conditions of the building starting to change. Lot of smoke. Heat was coming up to the third floor meaning the fire was traveling up, so at that point I knew that my life was in danger, and I had to jump on the ladder, revert back to my training, slide down and thankfully Coates was at the bottom to catch me.”
Now to the other side of the building. A crane operator is trapped. Firefighters are saying that the operator actually stayed in the crane, helping people get to safety. But then the fire creeped up.
You don’t get the ability to talk to the guy that you helped save,” said Rescue 10 Capt. Jeff Bright.
Rescue 10 made sure water was on the metal structure, and an emotional Bright, talked to the man for 35 minutes telling him they will rescue him.
“To talk to him on the radio and him tell you that he is down to his last bottle of water,” he said.
The operator, one of 15 people saved, and every responder saying they’re still mentally dealing with what took place.
The group is thankful for the community support, still dealing with the fact two men died, and as one firefighter says, he would go to battle with these men any day of the week.
“I’ve been doing this 29 years in this town,” says CFD Battalion Chief Shane Nantz. “I’ve a life-long Charlottean. I’ve never seen what they did, and what they did. You don’t see it every day. We risk it every day, but what they pulled off that day is something unheard of. They saved lives.”