Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Firefighters pluck family, dog from smoky balcony

Parents pondered dropping kids to safety

By Brett Corbin, bcorbin@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Smoke engulfed the second floor of the two-family apartment building in Price Hill on Monday morning, and the only way out — a door leading to the stairs and safety — was in flames.

[photo] A Cincinnati firefighter alerts others to a fire burning beneath the eaves of the Price Hill house.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        That left a small wooden balcony, barely 10 feet wide and 35 feet above the ground, as the only place to flee. Out there, a huddled group — two adults, two small children and a family dog — waited for firefighters as blinding smoke pouring from holes in the building's roof choked them.

        Don Jackson, father of 10-month-old Donque Jackson, and Amber Davis, mother of Donque and of Alexis Davis, 4, searched for firefighters and screamed for help.

        There seemed to be just one solution: Drop the small children from the balcony and hope they landed safely.

        But when firefighters arrived, they urged Mr. Jackson to wait just a few more moments. Help was coming, yelled John Zompero, fire captain for Cincinnati's District 2. Rescuers were racing to bring a ladder to the burning building.

[photo] Don Jackson hugs his 10-month-old son, Donque, after their rescue.
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        “They were contemplating (dropping the children),” Capt. Zompero said. “The smoke was getting pretty heavy.”

        As firefighters pumped water on the Crestline Avenue blaze, hoping to control it, the ladder was propped against the balcony. Donque was handed from firefighter to firefighter to the ground.

        The rest of the family followed — including the dog, who escaped unharmed.

        “We saw smoke coming from the bottom of the steps ... and everything just got smoky,” Ms. Davis said.

        Authorities said the fire started around 9:30 a.m. when one of the children was playing with firecrackers and a lighter while Ms. Davis and Mr. Jackson slept.

        For the adults to avoid first-degree misdemeanor charges, the child must attend a class where firefighters warn of the dangers of playing with fire, Capt. Zompero said. The fire caused $60,000 in damage.


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