The Christmas Miracle

Some Moyers Corners Fire Department members call it “The Christmas Miracle.”

In the very early morning hours of December 25, 2014, Deputy Chief Frank Crispin, Deputy Chief Steve Zaferakis, firefighter Phil Vogt, firefighter Ryan Whitmore and firefighter Jeremy Corsaro reported to a residential fire.

Upon the arrival of the deputy chiefs, Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputies said they heard an individual yelling for help from inside the trailer. Deputy chiefs Crispin and Zaferakis decided to attempt a rescue. Zaferakis forced the rear door of the residence open with the crew of Engine 41, which had just arrived on the scene.

The kitchen was fully involved at that point and fire was quickly spreading to the living room. The already thick black smoke only became thicker. As the engine crew attempted to hold back the flames, Zaferakis and the engine officer Vogt quickly searched for the known victim.

They made their way past the kitchen and active fire to a back bedroom of the trailer, where they found a semi-conscious 49-year-old Michael Echeandia.

Smoke inhalation and a physical disability had incapacitated him. Zaferakis and Vogt carried Echeandia to the nearest window and passed him to firefighters outside.

Echeandia remained semi-conscious and was cared for by firefighters until Rural Metro Ambulance arrived and transported him to Upstate Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. A few days later, Echeandia was upgraded to stable condition and has since continued to recover.

Back at the scene, Crispin located 31-year-old Justin Smith, who was in full cardiac arrest. Crispin was joined by two firefighters from Rescue 4, Whitmore and Corsaro, and the three together were able to maneuver Smith to the doorway of the room.

With the help of a fourth firefighter, Smith was eventually transported outside and resuscitation efforts began. By the time Greater Baldwinsville Ambulance Corps arrived on the scene, Smith had regained a pulse and was attempting to breathe on his own.

Smith was transported to Upstate Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. He remained in critical condition for more than two weeks until he was upgraded to good condition.

This fire was a great example of a department-wide team effort and an overall well-run operation. A quick knockdown of the flames, a fast search and rescue operation, and quality emergency medical care not only resulted in two individuals being pulled from a house fire, but also surviving the ordeal.