Firefighter's helmet cam captures dramatic rescue


The emergency call came just after 7 a.m. and because of new technology, the public gets a chance to see what it's like to be a first responder.

Frightened and panicked neighbors could be heard screaming, calling out for firefighters to save the children trapped inside a burning apartment in the Ashland area, just outside San Leandro.

As we slow down the video, you can see a woman handing a child off to firefighters waiting below, while flames and smoke nip at her heels.

"We had heavy fire showing from the first floor window, we had a confirmed rescue on the second floor," said Tom Pappas with the Alameda County Fire Department.

In the video, you can see a firefighter work his way through a thick curtain of smoke. It's Pappas -- a man with more than two decades of service under his belt and the only one on the team with a new tool being tested by the Alameda County Fire Department, a helmet cam.

"A lot of the family members weren't able to get out and we had neighbors and parents saying that there younger children were still trapped on the second floor," said Pappas.

In the video, you can see the firefighter go up the stairs of the apartment and enter the building. He first faces a thick, black plume of smoke. You can hear Pappas calling out to the children he later found scared and hiding in a closet. He and his team are using the camera, attached to his helmet, to review their procedures and provide the public with a first-person view of the dangers they face and how every second counts when it comes to saving lives.

"It was a very chaotic scene when we first arrived," said Pappas.

Fire crews rescued three children from the home and they even used infrared cameras to search the rooms. One child made it out on his own. Now, the crew that battled the early morning fire, stand in the shadow of a building left in ruins with melted bed frames, charred bicycles, and the ashen remains of a place one family used to call home.

Neighbors told ABC7 that the displaced family is now staying with relatives. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but early reports suggest that it may have been caused by a mattress being placed too close to a space heater. It is not clear if the family had working smoke detectors.

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