Philadelphia Firefighter Criticized for Rescue

PHILADELPHIA (MyFoxPhilly) – A Philadelphia firefighter who survived a recent warehouse fire in Kensington is being called a hero again. He risked his life to save another.

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But hours after the dramatic rescue, Fran Cheney says he was being criticized by a top fire department official for his rescue, FOX 29’s Chris O’Connell reported Thursday.

Cheney says he was just doing his job Wednesday morning — like any other firefighter would do.

But for the second time in three months, he not only escaped death but he also saved a life.

Mary Jackson says if it wasn’t for firefighter Fran Cheney she wouldn’t be here today.

As her family escaped the burning house on Higbee Street, Cheney arrived with Engine 61.

“A radio report came over that there was people trapped. The brother is in the front saying that his sister is still in there. Lt. Lewindowski and Firefighter Gonzales from Engine 61 immediately said, ‘We got this.'”

It allowed Cheney to search the smoke-filled home. That’s when he heard the screaming from a second-floor bedroom.

“I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe, nothing,” said the fire victim, Mary Jackson.

Cheney said she was “just smoky, heaving, trying to catch her breath. I mean it was just, you could hear it, she was in distress.”

Describing what he did next, Cheney said, “I take a quick breath, rip my helmet off, give her the mask — it’s on positive pressure, which means it just blows smoke away from her — and I just say, ‘Let’s go.'”

Jackson said, “I felt myself going down the steps, and then all of the sudden I felt something on my face.”

Cheney carried her down the stairs and outside to safety, risking his own life.

“If I was worried about that, I wouldn’t be here, and neither would any of these guys that I work with,” Cheney said. “That’s what we do. That’s who we are.”

Cheney knows that all too well. Back in April, he narrowly escaped that Kensington warehouse fire that killed two fellow firefighters. He still wears their names on his wrist.

He says during this near-death experience, his fallen brothers were with him.

“That was their way of telling me that everything is going to be OK,” Cheney said. “They had a hand in that the other night.”

And if saving a life wasn’t good enough, Cheney donated his overtime, $500, to Jackson and her family to help them get back on their feet.

“I’ve realizes how special they are for us, for everyone,” Jackson said. “He did, he went out of his way to save me.”

Cheney was uninjured but suffered smoke inhalation and spent the night at Temple University Hospital.

He says he’ll be back to work in the next couple days after getting cleared by a doctor. And you would think he’d receive praise for his life-saving, heroic efforts.

But wait until you hear in the second part of O’Connell’s video report what his bosses had to say about his life-saving effort.

He says a top fire department administrator paid him a bedside visit at the hospital and, instead of getting praise, he says what he heard next shocked him.

“That’s — I was told that wasn’t very smart,” Cheney said.

Asked how he felt about an administrator saying that to him, Cheney said, “I’m a pretty smart guy, so, if that’s the comment then hopefully I could be in that administrator’s spot someday, if that’s what it takes.”

The fire department will investigate to determine if proper procedures were followed when Cheney put his mask on a victim. He’s says, regardless, he’d do it again in an instant.

Asked if that’s proper protocol, Cheney said, “I don’t know. I’m not a — you know, at that time I’m not worrying about directives. I’m not worrying about paperwork. I’m worrying about this woman and a family worrying about her, whether she’s alive in that house right now.”

As for his victim, she couldn’t be more thankful.

“He’s great. He deserves a medal,” Jackson said.

We were not able to get a comment from fire department officials Thursday night. As for Cheney, he’ll be back on the job at Ladder 10 on Friday, O’Connell reported.


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