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Neighbors Try, Fail to Save Toddler Before FFs Arrive

Neighbors Try, Fail to Save Toddler Before FFs Arrive

(Stock Photo)

The Kansas City Star via YellowBrix

June 12, 2010

At fire scenes, police and neighbors typically wait for firefighters, the ones with the protective gear.

But that doesn’t work when somebody says a toddler is trapped upstairs in a burning townhouse, which happened early Friday morning in Grandview.

At that point, they went. No one was able to save the child. But they tried.

First up was the neighbor, Steve Barnhart, a 53-year-old former firefighter. Pushed back by flames and heat and his shirt charred, he slammed his fist through the wall and yelled for the child to grab his hand.

By then his skin was burning. Part of the ceiling came down.

“I knew I had to get out of there or I would never get out of there,” Barnhart said later in the day.

When he got out, police arrived. He told the officers they wouldn’t make it. Too hot.

“They attacked,” Grandview Fire Marshal Jim Wilson said of three police officers. “They got as far up those stairs as they could, but they couldn’t make it. The heat was too much. They just had on regular uniforms.”

Firefighters soon arrived at the townhouse in the 6200 block of 129th Street. They found the 2-year-old girl in an upstairs bedroom, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Officials determined late Friday that the fire was caused by children playing with a lighter or matches.

Police had not released the victim’s name. The toddler’s mother and four siblings were treated at hospitals for smoke and burns.

Three police officers were treated for smoke inhalation, as were two firefighters.

Barnhart was given oxygen at the scene, and paramedics put a splint on his arm. Later Friday, he said his lungs hurt and his knuckles were swollen.


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