Cory Booker fire rescue 'very heroic' but very dangerous, fire officials say
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is being hailed as hero for running into a burning building to save a neighbor's daughter. But fire officials say that such actions often end badly.
Professional firefighters are happy that Newark Mayor Cory Booker‚Äôs rescue of his neighbor‚Äôs daughter from a burning building was successful. But they warn that most people should not try it themselves.
That‚Äôs because home fires can become major conflagrations in a very short period of time. And they can worsen so quickly that someone rushing into a building may not be able to get out.
‚ÄúA house that is on fire is what we describe as immediately dangerous to life,‚ÄĚ says Peter Struble, the fire chief at Wallingford, Conn., and a part-time instructor at the University of New Haven‚Äôs Department of Fire Science & Professional Studies. ‚ÄúWithout protective equipment you could perish or have permanent disability if you enter that environment.‚ÄĚ
According to Mr. Booker, who appeared Friday on "CBS This Morning," he had returned home on Thursday night when he saw flames in his neighbor‚Äôs home. A woman was screaming that her daughter was trapped inside.
Booker ignored a member of his security detail, who was trying to keep him from entering the burning building. ‚ÄúWithout thinking twice, he ran into the flames and rescued the young lady,‚ÄĚ said Newark Detective Alex Rodriguez, who was on the show and was with Booker at the house.
Once he located the young woman, Booker put her on his shoulder and tried to get out of the worsening fire. He says, ‚ÄúI punched through the kitchen and the flames and that‚Äôs when I saw Detective Rodriguez. He grabbed her as well and we got her down the stairs and we both just collapsed outside.‚ÄĚ
Fire professionals say he was fortunate.
‚ÄúThe outcome was positive but it was a very dangerous decision to make and likely not to be successful if you are untrained and unequipped,‚ÄĚ says Mr. Struble.
Retired New Haven fire chief Martin O‚ÄôConnor says he has experienced people trying the same thing as the mayor but not successfully.
‚ÄúIt was my last fire before I retired,‚ÄĚ recalls Mr. O‚ÄôConnor, who also teaches at New Haven University with Chief Struble. ‚ÄúA mom went back into her house to try to save her kid and they both died.‚ÄĚ
O‚ÄôConnor says he‚Äôs seen people lose their lives by going back into burning houses to try to rescue their pets or retrieve valuables. ‚ÄúThe catchphrase in fires is ‚ÄėRisk a lot to save a lot,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ he says.
In Booker‚Äôs case, O‚ÄôConnor says the risk was to save a life which might have made it worth doing. ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt help but admire what the mayor did, it‚Äôs very heroic,‚ÄĚ says O‚ÄôConnor, who says he would have probably done the same thing. ‚ÄúI would have made my best effort to get in there,‚ÄĚ he says.
Booker‚Äôs actions seem to have resonated with hundreds of people. On Friday, on Twitter one tweet said, ‚ÄúWhen Chuck Norris has nightmares, Cory Booker turns on the light & sits with him until he falls back asleep.‚ÄĚ Another tweeter identified as Dr. Jill Biden wrote, ‚ÄúCory Booker doesn't run into fires, fire runs away from Cory Booker.‚ÄĚ
A Stanford University graduate and former varsity football player, Booker rose to prominence as Newark‚Äôs Central Ward councilman. In 2002, he ran against long-time mayor Sharpe James, who defeated him in a no-holds-barred campaign. By 2006, there were reports that Mr. James was under investigation, and James did not run for reelection. Instead, Booker was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2010.
He is known as a hands-on mayor who is not afraid of picking up a snow shovel to clear sidewalks. His style and efforts have attracted national attention, including the 2010 pledge of $100 million to improve education in Newark from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
As mayor, he has faced a major budget deficit and the challenge of keeping businesses in the city while attracting new ones. He views Newark‚Äôs struggle as emblematic of other urban cities that have faced hard times. ‚ÄúIn fact, looking across our state and even across our nation, we can take pride that Newark, in a time of urban despair, has become a city of emergent hope.‚ÄĚ
In his State of the City speech this year, he detailed the city‚Äôs ‚Äúfirsts,‚ÄĚ ranging from first in the state to have a center supporting grandparents bringing up grandkids to first in the state to have a one-stop center to help returning veterans. Now, the city may have another one: first mayor in the state to enter a burning house to save a life.