• Deputy, Bystanders Help Save Lives in Apt Fire

    Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, NE)

    March 15, 2017

    An apartment building that caught fire in Lancaster County could have been a lot worse had Deputy Barry Barnett not noticed smoke on his way home.

    Pulling over to check it out, Barnett noticed flames were coming from an outside stairwell leading to a second floor apartment. Calling in the fire, he grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the stairs.

    Two other deputies also showed up with their extinguishers as well as a couple of bystanders to help.

    "We could hear people screaming for help (from the second floor); we could hear kids screaming," Barnett said. At one point, he was able to get the fire down enough with his extinguisher for some people to leave using the stairs, but the flames kicked back up, according to Barnett.

    About eight people used their only other means for escape and climbed from a window onto the roof, where a resident helped shuttle children down to first responders. All 13 people inside the two apartments were accounted for. Two adults were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Leo Benes said.

    Witnesses described the scene as chaotic. Sheriff's deputies and Lincoln police officers sheltered children in their warm vehicles as crews got the fire under control.

    Asked what he was thinking at the time, Barnett said, "I can't breathe but it doesn't matter, because I have to get in there somehow."

    According to Benes, without deputies using fire extinguishers the fire could have been much worse. "It's an older structure. It doesn't have any insulation in the walls, so it could have grew...fire will double in size in 30 seconds," said Benes.

    Most of the fire damage was contained to the outside of the building with some interior smoke damage.

    City Fire Inspector Chuck Schweitzer said a cigarette that hadn't been discarded properly caused the fire.

    Source: Deputy, Bystanders Help Save Lives in Apt Fire - Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, NE)