Off-duty firefighter saves baby dropped from second-floor window during fire

BOSTON — Two families displaced. Half a million dollars in damage.

And one dramatic rescue.

That was the tally at 22 Norton Street, after a fire broke out this morning sometime after 7 a.m.

James Macdonnell lives next door and was awoken by an electrical smell coming through his air conditioner.

“I know what that means when there’s an electrical smell like that,” he said. “Immediately I got up and turned off my air conditioner. I was kind of panicked because I thought my house was experiencing an electrical short of some sort.”

It wasn’t.

But after Macdonnell checked his own wiring, he searched for the source of the electrical odor outside.

“I opened the back door towards the house next door, and there was a wall of flames,” he said. “Big flames. It wasn’t a little fire. It was big.”

James woke his brother Colin, and, after calling 911, the brothers attempted to douse the flames using garden hoses before firefighters arrived.

James said the hot, dry conditions of the last month probably contributed to the speed of the fire’s spread.

“When I opened that back door, I looked and I went...whoa,” he said.

Trapped on the second floor of the burning house was a mother and her child.

Fortunately, the tenant occupying the unit at the front of the house was an off-duty Boston firefighter. He was drawn outside after hearing a commotion, said Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Burke.

“He saw a woman on the second floor holding a baby,” Burke said. “She hung out the window and dropped the baby to him.”

The firefighter caught the child.

“The fact that he went to the location where the baby was, where the woman was – it was amazing that he got there as fast as he did with the fire conditions around him, with the smoke conditions around him,” Burke said. “He got there just in the nick of time.”

Unfortunately, the child’s mother jumped from the window as well. She was injured, Burke said, along with the child’s father, who escaped via another route.

Both parents were taken to the hospital. Burke said he believes their injuries to be non-life-threatening.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW