AKRON, Ohio-- The faint smell of smoke lingered near an apartment building at 21 South Highland Avenue in Akron, the sinister threat it posed near midnight, May 17, staining the brick that still stood, despite the crushing heat and flames that ravaged the walls beyond.
Three people were unable to escape the fire that broke out around midnight. Akron firefighters battled their way into the burning building and rescued them.
“It was extreme circumstances,” said Akron Fire Lt. Art Dobbins, “It was a once in a career fire that you have these types of conditions all together, with three people trapped, heavy smoke and fire conditions, where you’re sending crews into an unknown situation.”
Dobbins was there that night, as were the group of firefighters surrounding him two weeks later on a Saturday morning, as witnesses to their bravery gathered to say thank you.
“This is really a story about everyday people, everyday heroes who get up and go to work every day,” Akron Councilman Rich Swirsky told the crowd.
Swirsky was moved by expressions of gratitude he saw posted on Facebook and organized the thank you party.
“We respect the work that they do and we’re really very grateful” he told Fox8’s Lorrie Taylor.
Greta Ramey, an artist and oil painter, who lived behind the burned out apartment, was so grateful for the work she saw firefighters and police doing throughout the early morning hours, she created poster-sized thank you cards signed by neighbors who also felt the need to say thank you.
“It was just really incredible to see them put their lives on the line to get our community members out of the building,” said Ramey.
Akron’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Charles Brown, said the opportunity to see the city’s police and fire professionals working together was incredible.
“I was in awe that night,” said Brown.
Akron’s safety professionals who spoke with Taylor said they were just doing their jobs; those who saw them working insisted they were heroes.
“It just makes it feel good to be a fireman, you know, we made a difference,” said Acting Lieutenant Charles Lattimer.
“Saving lives and making a difference, that’s what we’re here for,” said Dobbins.
The group of firemen were later treated to lunch at the Ohio Brewing Company across the street from the fire damaged building. The Mustard Seed and Angel Falls Coffee Shop contributed to the event.