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Family of 4 escapes Freeport house fire uninjured, cops say

A family of four escaped safely after their

A family of four escaped safely after their Freeport house caught on fire on Sunday, March 26, 2017. Photo Credit: Lou Minutoli

An off-duty Freeport firefighter rescued a family of four from an accidental kitchen fire at their Freeport home on Sunday morning, authorities said.

Freeport volunteer firefighter Gatha Ballard was driving on Union Street on his way to the fire house Sunday morning about 9:25 a.m. for a training session when he spotted smoke and flames coming from the home, he said in an interview.

Ballard, a five-year veteran of the department, parked his car and pushed in the door of the home, which was filled with smoke, he said.

He guided a man, who appeared disoriented out of the house, he said. Ballard, who had no firefighting equipment, then ran back inside, helping to evacuate three others — including a mother and child who were asleep in an upstairs bedroom, Ballard said.

“I just yelled at them, ‘Get up! Your house is on fire! You gotta get up! Follow me!’ ” Ballard said.

The residents — two adults ages 38 and 50, and two children ages 3 and 7 — were taken to a hospital for evaluation and released, police said.

Chief Raymond Maguire, executive director of the Freeport Fire Department, said Ballard “put his training into action.”

Ballard’s actions, Maguire said, were indicative of the dedication of the department’s volunteers.

“Firefighter Ballard is a clear testament to that dedication,” Maguire said.

Once Ballard got everyone out of the house, he notified the fire department, which was able to put out the fire before it spread from its apparent starting point in the kitchen. The fire has been ruled accidental, police said.

“You pray that you never have to have a situation where you have to save people, because you never know how it’s going to turn out, but in this event, I’m glad I was in the right place at that right time,” said Ballard.

The Freeport and Baldwin fire departments responded to the blaze, with 35 firefighters on the scene, police said. Two firefighters were treated at the scene, for smoke inhalation and a twisted ankle, police said.

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