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Firefigther Tackles Blaze Alone While Visiting Childhood Home

Firefigther Tackles Blaze Alone While Visiting Childhood Home

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Maryland Gazette via YellowBrix

April 17, 2010

County Firefighter Justin Davidson went to his parents’ Pennsylvania home last weekend to relax.

But before he could finish his nap Sunday afternoon, his parents, John and Pamela Davidson, woke him up screaming that the house was on fire.

Wearing mesh shorts and an Anne Arundel County Fire Department T-shirt, Davidson, 28, who lives in Baltimore, shot out of his childhood bed and sprung into action.

“Fire was pushing through the ceiling,” he said. “I just reacted. It was just second nature.”

Davidson got his parents and the family’s two golden retrievers, Cody and Rusty, out of the one-story, single-family brick home in the 200 block of Cedar Road in Wallingford, Pa.

He told his parents to call 911, but knew it would be “some time” before the volunteers with the Garden City Fire Station would make it to the house.

Davidson, a nine-year veteran of the county Fire Department currently assigned to Ladder Truck 33 at the Glen Burnie Fire Station, was a cadet for the Garden City Fire Station as a teen before coming to Anne Arundel County, said Joseph Lombardo Jr., chief of the Garden City Fire Station. He was awarded Cadet of the Year for the volunteer department years ago, Lombardo said.

“The volunteers here are fantastic,” Davidson said. “But they are strictly volunteer here. They respond from their homes or jobs, go to the firehouse, get dressed and then come. Even though we live close to the firehouse, I knew it’d take some time. And there wasn’t time.”

Davidson grabbed a 6-foot shovel his mother gardens with. He used the shovel as a makeshift pike pole, a tool commonly used by firefighters.

“I started hooking the ceiling,” Davidson said. “The beams were on fire.”

Once he opened up the ceiling, Davidson used a small fire extinguisher and buckets of water to contain the blaze.

As he fought the flames, officers with the Nether Providence Township Police Department arrived at the scene.

Davidson said police officers repeatedly screamed for him to get out of the house. But he refused.

“This is my parents’ house,” he said. “This is all we’ve got back home. I preach to everyone to never go back in once a house is on fire. But I grew up in this house, and I was going to fight to save it.”

He said police threatened to arrest him for not obeying orders. Davidson kept fighting the flames anyway.

“I would have gone kicking and screaming,” he said.

Lombardo, who was a captain with the volunteer fire department when Davidson was a young cadet, pulled up to the home and immediately recognized the man inside whom police were screaming at.

“None of them (the police) knew Justin, so they didn’t know he was a past member of Garden City,” Lombardo said. “… He wasn’t in protective gear – he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so I did tell him to come out. He was a little reluctant because this was his mom and dad’s house and he is very protective of it. But I assured him we would do everything we could.” ’He’s one of ours’

Davidson said police escorted him away from the scene and said they were going to arrest him.

But Lombard stopped them.

“The fire chief (Lombardo) told them, ’He’s one of ours, don’t touch him,’ " Davidson said.

The police backed off.

The fire caused about $15,000 in damage to the modest home.

Pamela Davidson said new insulation recently had been installed in the house.

“Insulation was put too close to the (chimney) and that is what started the fire,” she said. “We’re missing a good chunk of our living room ceiling and there is a good bit of other damage to the house.”

It could have been much worse, Lombardo said.

“If Justin didn’t do what he did, there would have probably been a lot more damage,” he said. “He definitely made a difference.”

Division Chief Michael Cox, a county Fire Department spokesman, would not comment about Davidson’s actions.

But he said the department recommends that everyone exit a building or home on fire.

“Only properly trained and properly equipped firefighters should enter or re-enter any building that is on fire,” he said. Nine lives?

Davidson said he is surprised he was not injured Sunday.

“My shirt has holes all burned in it and it’s covered in debris,” he said. “My Maryland mesh shorts and my hat have holes burned in.”

Davidson may have nine lives.

In August 2006, Davidson was injured when he fell three stories while fighting a Glen Burnie apartment blaze.

Davidson was on the roof of 7834 Woodside Terrace pulling down drywall and looking for hot spots when a beam gave way, dropping him to the ground 25 feet below.

According to The Capital’s archives, Davidson was able to hang on to part of the roof for a short time before he fell. He suffered only cuts and bruises and was released from the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore just 12 hours after the fall.

Lombardo said Davidson is dedicated, to say the least.

“We do miss him here in Garden City,” he said. “You guys (Anne Arundel County) got a great deal there.”