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2 Hopkins County Residents Recognized For Heroic Efforts in Fatal Cedar Hill Fire

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Cedar Hill Fire Department Driver Jake Spataro and Captain Rusty Brannon were among the firefighters and emergency personnel recognized at a Cedar Hill City Council meeting this week for their rescue efforts in Feb. 28 blaze that resulted in 4 deaths. Spataro and Brannon, Hopkins County residents, received both Life Safety Awards and a Unit Citation for their leadership efforts during the fire.

Two Sulphur Springs residents were among the firefighters and police recognized Tuesday night by Cedar Hill City Council for their efforts to rescue four of the six people reportedly trapped Feb. 28 in a burning two-story home.

Cedar Hill Fire Department Capt. Rusty Brannon and Driver Jake Spataro received a Life Safety Award and Unit Citations for helping to pull four victims out of the fiery residence.

Brannon is quick to point out that they were not the only ones singled out for recognition. Several others who aided in the efforts were recognized; he and Spataro were both in charge of their apparatus, Spataro an engine and Brannon a quint, so they received additional recognition for leading their crews.

“Honestly, we were here that night. We were there to do a job, no different than every other fireman does,” Brannon said.

The CHFD captain said 911 dispatchers received a call from a woman who said she was trapped on the second floor of the building, and she couldn’t get out. Screams could reportedly be heard in the background and the woman reported six people in the house, including children.

Spataro had just made driver at Cedar Hill Fire Department about 2 months prior to the fire and was stepping up to ride the officer’s seat for the first time that shift, Brannon reported. Spataro arrived in the engine and Brannon, a Sulphur Springs resident with about 24 years experience in firefighting, arrived behind in the quint.

“As we arrived, two people were jumping out the second floor window. They said the kids were still inside,” Brannon recalled to KSST.

Brannon explained the police department had pulled at least one squad car up to the window. The man and woman jumped out the window. The woman landed on the window of the police car. The man and woman were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and transported the hospital, according to the CHFD captain.

“You have moments to go through it. It doesn’t set in until it was over. You don’t feel fear until after the fact,” Brannon said.

The firefighters mobilized and went into the home, which Brannon said had heavy fire at the back of it, to try to rescue the four other people inside.

“Jake pulled one out just inside the front door,” Brannon said.

Brannon said he lead a crew upstairs, guided by a thermal imaging camera, because it was so dark and the smoke was so heavy they were unable to see in front of them.

Three additional victims were also located inside the home. A 17-year-old was found near a door and a woman was found on the stairs and were carried from the burning structure, Brannon said.

“We were pretty exhausted by then. We went upstairs. It was high heat, dark, smoking,” Brannon said.

The crews had planned to conduct a search to the left of the structure upon arrival upstairs, but made a decision to go the other way

“God protected us. We did a right search, where someone is in contact with the wall. In the first bedroom was the 15-year-old by the door. We later found out, if we’d gone to the left, about a 20 feet a hole had burned through the floor on the left side. If we’d gone that way a firefighter would have gone through and fallen to the floor below. God looked after us,” Brannon said.

The victims pulled from the home by firefighters included a man, woman, 17-year-old and a 15-year-old. The 17-year-old was were transported to the hospital. CPR was administered in the front yard; the three others reportedly died at the scene. The 17-year-old died after about a month in the hospital. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, according to Brannon and news reports.

Brannon said the blaze made him appreciate the work firefighters in his hometown of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County do. In Cedar Hill, firefighters have considerably more resources. When a call of that nature is dispatched, numerous trucks filled with trained on-duty firefighters are paid to respond.

“If this call happened in Sulphur Springs, there’d be a whole lot less. You don’t realize how blessed you are to have the support we have here. They do what they do for less and with less manpower. They are good guys for sure,” Brannon praised.

Author: Faith Huffman

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