Sunday, August 06, 2000

Family to firefighters: Thank you

Father finds firefighters who saved his daughter

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        She stood in the kitchen area of the firehouse in Clifton, a bashful smile on her 6-year-old face. She looked across the room at Cincinnati Fire Lt. Harold Wright.

        “Do you know who that is?” asked the girl's father, Walter Smith.

[photo] Fire Lt. Harold Wright meets Beverly Jean Hector, 6
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Beverly Jean Hector, dressed in pink shorts and her hair in braids, without so much as a word, walked over and put her arms around Lt. Wright's waist.

        “She's a little bigger than I remember,” Lt. Wright said as he put his arms around the tiny girl.

        The last time he saw Beverly, he was passing her limp body to another firefighter, Daryl Bonds, who then passed her down an aerial ladder to Greg Williams.

        All three firefighters were at the Engine Co. 34 firehouse on Ludlow Avenue Saturday afternoon to meet the girl and her father for the first time. Lt. Wright, then a firefighter, who pulled Beverly from the room. Mr. Bonds and Mr. Williams, who carried her down the ladder. Mr. Smith and Beverly wanted to say thank you.

        “I'd been trying to locate him for six years,” Mr. Smith said of Lt. Wright.

        The search ended just a few weeks ago when Mr. Smith had asked firefighters who were doing inspections at an apartment com plex he manages whether they might know who the firefighters were who rescued a piece of his life.

        They knew. They gave him names.

        The deadly five-alarm fire in the 3700 block of Reading Road back on Dec. 2, 1994, displaced 20 families, caused $200,000 in damages and, most tragically, took the life of Mr. Smith's son and Beverly's brother, Walter Perry Hector, 2.

        The fire was apparently caused accidentally by a 12-year-old trying to refill a lighter with fluid. Some bedding caught fire. The fire spread in the third-floor apartment, trapping Walter and Beverly.

        By the time firefighters arrived, the fire lapped from windows and windowpanes had melted. Families fled the building.

        Lt. Wright, working at the time for Engine Co. 19, went up the aerial ladder and into the room darkened with thick smoke. He knew children were trapped.

        “I was basically doing a blind search,” Lt. Wright, a firefighter for 12 years, recalled. “I felt around for her.”

        When he found Beverly, he grabbed her and pulled her from the room. Her body was limp. He handed her to Mr. Bonds, who began to lose his grip. Lt. Wright helped him regain his grip.

        Beverly was critically injured and spent nearly three weeks at Shriners Burns Institute before her condition was upgraded to fair.

        Lt. Wright stood by Beverly on Saturday and rubbed her shoulder. “I hope she'll go on and do great things,” he said.

        “You have anything to tell him?” Mr. Smith nudged his daughter.

        “Thank you for bringing me out of the fire,” said Beverly in a soft voice.

        “You made sure my daughter can grow up and live a normal life,” Mr. Smith told the lieutenant and the others. “You did what you had to do to make sure she's here today. I appreciate it, I really do. ... Now I can put this to rest. I lost my son, but I know they did everything they could.”

        Cincinnati Fire District Chief Fredrick Prather said rescues such as the one performed back in 1994 happen just a handful of times a year, maybe two to four times.

        “We don't get these types of moments throughout our career, where somebody comes back and says thank you,” said Chief Prather. “We have an actual person who is now alive and breathing as a result. That makes it special.”

        Lt. Wright can recall at least two other occasions when he carried a child from a fire. Neither lived.

        “Sometimes you wonder about the job and the danger,” Lt. Wright said Saturday just before he met Beverly. “You think, what am I doing running into a building that everybody is running out of?”

        Afterward, as Beverly and her friend, Travon Greenlee, 7, enjoyed cake and ice cream at the Clifton firehouse, and thank-yous were extended, Lt. Wright found an answer.


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