April 16, 2004
Three firefighters and a cop teamed up yesterday to save a wheelchair-using mom and two kids from a Bronx blaze.
Officer Robert Oswain spotted the fire just before 9 a.m. from his post at Cardinal Spellman High School and raced to the scene, at 3615 DeReimer Ave. in Baychester.
He and bystander William Roman were driven back by flames and smoke when they tried to enter the building.
When Engine 38 and Ladder 51 arrived moments later, two children - a 14-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl - could be seen banging on a bedroom window.
Although the older boy jumped, his little cousin remained at the window, and his mom and a 13-year-old brother were still stuck inside.
Fire Lt. William McGee and Firefighters Rodney DeCuffa and Kevin Wacha pushed past the flames in the front room to reach the trapped victims.
"To get to the bedroom, we had to go through the fire," said McGee. "And once we got to them, the fire cut us off from the exit. Engine 38 did a phenomenal job driving back the fire so we could get them out."
The mother, Susan Jackson, suffers from multiple sclerosis and was unconscious when firefighters found her.
She had slid out of her wheelchair and used her body to protect her 13-year-old son as the flames closed in around them.
"She was on the floor when I found her," said McGee. "She was actually laying over the 13-year-old. That's pretty heroic, if you ask me."
DeCuffa carried the boy to safety, while Wacha - who was off duty, but went on the call anyway - rescued the girl through the window by ladder.
Jackson and the kids were being treated at Jacobi Medical Center for smoke inhalation, and were expected to recover.
Jason Jackson, 18, who wasn't home when the fire broke out, returned to find the apartment gutted. He was relieved to hear that his mom, brothers and cousin were going to be okay.
"[The apartment is] gone, but it's all right - it's all all right, because
everybody's all right," he said.
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