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Quick thinking saves 4 people from burning Cleveland townhome

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 09:24:43-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland firefighters, off-duty police officers and neighbors helped rescue a mother and her three children from a burning townhome Sunday morning.

The fire began just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday at an apartment complex on East 38th Street.

It was quick thinking and a willingness to help that saved the lives of a mother and her three young children.

“It was already smoking out of the top of the building and the little girl was at that window,” Steven Pozniak said.

Pozniak is one of two off-duty police officers who was patrolling the complex when he and his partner heard screams and saw smoke coming from a corner unit.

“Mom was in a fit of panic,” Ernest Leach said, “I mean, you’ve got two kids up there.”

Leach forced his way inside the burning home until Cleveland firefighters arrived just minutes later.

“I couldn’t see the floor,” Leach said, “I couldn’t see anything.”

Pozniak convinced one little girl to take a leap of faith and jump into his arms from a third-story window.

“She was terrified and there was more smoke coming from around her then I could ever imagine,” Pozniak said. “She was almost disappearing in the smoke and crying.”

The little girl initially hesitated.

“I had my arms up in the air and you know I told her, ‘I’ll catch you. I’ll catch you. Please jump,’” Pozniak said.

With the mother and two children accounted for, Cleveland firefighters rushed inside and fought through thick smoke and flames to bring a 2-year-old girl trapped on the third floor to safety.

“We were here and able to respond in like minutes,” Captain Tom Lally said, “Seconds make a difference when you think about how long you can hold your breath.”

Captain Lally said he keeps his five children in mind on rescue calls like this one.

“What we do on a daily basis,” Lally said, “We try to treat people like they’re our family members and when you do that you usually have a pretty good outcome.”

The mother and her three children were taken to the hospital to be checked out.

News 5 was told by fire officials that the 2-year-old girl rescued from the third story is in critical but stable condition.