FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Two firefighters dove head first through the window of a burning house Monday morning after hearing moaning inside. The blaze already had injured two adults.
Lieutenants Chris Longo and Steve Burns dragged a fire hose with them and breathed from oxygen tanks as they went deeper into the blazing smoke-filled single-family home near the intersection of 25th Street and Juanita Avenue.
Finally, they found the source of the moaning: an 8-year-old boy who had collapsed on the floor in the middle of the concrete-block house.
Until then, the firemen had been fearful of "steaming" the unseen victim by spraying water on the flames, said Longo, 45, a 22-year firefighting veteran, who has an 11-year-old son.
"I was thinking of him (his son)," Longo said. "We could not sit there and listen without helping."
The two firemen lifted the boy and used their protective gear to shield him from the flames.
About 80 percent of the home was on fire.
They turned on the hose to battle back the flames as they worked their way to the front door around 8:45 a.m.
"They (the firemen) did a heroic job" that saved the boy's life, said Batallion Chief Gary Key with the St. Lucie County Fire District.
The boy and two other adult occupants of the house were flown away by helicopter: two to a burn unit in Orlando and one to the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute.
Before the helicopter left for Orlando, Longo heard the boy speak.
A fourth adult escaped unharmed from the structure, Key said.
A medical helicopter from Brevard County was delayed in assisting rescuers because it had to be cleared to fly in restricted airspace put in place for President Barack Obama's Treasure Coast visit.
While officials were working to get the clearance, emergency crews in Fort Pierce reassessed the individuals' injuries and determined a third helicopter wasn't needed, said Capt. Derek Foxx, St. Lucie County Fire District.
"No patient flights were impacted by the president's no-fly zone," Foxx said
About 20 fire department workers battled the fire using nine vehicles.
The single-story house, in the 2200 block of North 25th Street, was destroyed.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.