For firefighters Jack Ley and Sam Henderson, Thursday was just another day at the office.
But for three people trapped inside a burning home at 79 May Valley Drive in Fenton, Ley and Henderson's actions were lifesaving.
The two Valley Park Fire Protection District firefighters were part of a group of St. Louis County police officers and firefighters who swarmed to the rear of the home and discovered there were three people—two adults and a 2- or 3-year-old girl—who had taken refuge in a half bathroom in the basement of the smoke-filled house.
Police officers Dawn Neuman and Chiquita Pullen from the St. Louis County Police Department's West County Precinct were the first on the scene in the backyard and discovered where the trapped people were located.
Pullen said there was one victim already out of the home who told police there were still three people trapped inside.
Pullen said she and Neuman located the trapped victims who were pounding on a glass block basement window. She said Neuman was able to cut through a small screen that allowed those who were trapped to get some air.
"They were basically out of oxygen," Pullen said. "That small space was their only source of air."
Ley described the scene where the young girl had her face pressed up against the space in the window and was pleading, "Please help us, we can't get out."
Ley said the situation was dire.
"The basement was filling up with smoke and they were hidden in a small half bath," he said. "They were pretty much cornered and they were shook up."
After the small screen was removed, the victims were advised to back away from the glass block window as Ley and Henderson smashed in the window with a fire axe and a "slam tool."
The young girl was pulled to safety first by Ley and Henderson and handed off to Neuman. She and the two trapped adults were transported to the hospital with unknown injuries.
Pullen, Ley and Henderson were very low-key about the rescue of the three fire victims.
"We just happened to be the firefighters there," Ley said. "In 17 years (as a firefighter), this is my first rescue."
"I would say I'm proud," Henderson said. "But it's part of the job. I'm just glad they all got out."
The cause of the fire is unknown, pending a report from fire investigators. The Fenton Fire Protection District received the initial call for a house fire at approximately noon. They arrived to find the smoke pouring from a two car garage and making its way into the home itself.
Fenton Deputy Chief Rob Odenwald said a second alarm was sounded when it was determined assistance would be needed to handle the blaze.
Also responding to the fire scene were fire departments from Mehlville, Valley Park, High Ridge and Saline Valley.
Ley and Henderson were calm in the hours after their rescue of the victims trapped in the basement, although Henderson revealed his blood pressure had been elevated just after the three people were rescued.
Ley also was taking the rescue in stride. "Yes, it's exciting," he said. "But it's our job. When the taxpayers say 'What do you do all day?' Well, this is what we do."
Patch will follow up on the May Valley Drive fire, and provide more details when they become available.