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Firefighter who rescued LB toddler speaks out

December 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A 2-year-old boy remains hospitalized following a fire at his apartment. Police say the boy had been left home alone for hours by his mother, who's now behind bars.Eyewitness News spoke with the firefighter who rescued the boy.

These Long Beach firefighter say it was all about team work as they rushed into this burning apartment.

Their mission: rescue a 2-year-old little boy trapped inside.

"There was a heavy body of fire in that bedroom where he was at and the smoke was banked down pretty low," said Long Beach firefighter Chuck Hakopian. "Fortunately the window had broken out and was able to let it vent a little bit. But he was experiencing some high heat in the room."

The blaze broke out early Monday morning.

The fire sparked by an electrical problem in the kitchen.

Investigators say the toddler who neighbors identified as "Justin," had been left home alone by his mother, 31-year-old Patience Aruomah.

She is now facing a charge of felony child abuse.

The little boy was asleep in his bed when the blaze broke out.

As flames and smoke filled the apartment Hakopian went on the offensive. As he worked his way through the apartment he fell through a hole in the floor.

Catching himself with his elbows, he climbed back out and continued to search.

"He was face down when I found him," said Hakopian. "I just acted quickly, picked him up, covered him up and ran downstairs."

Two paramedics waiting outside took his lifeless body and immediately began CPR.

"He was unconscious, not breathing and very, very hot to the touch because apparently he had been inside the apartment for a long period of time," said Long Beach Fire Dept. paramedic Mark Miller.

The 2-year-old suffered severe smoke inhalation and second-degree burns on his feet. Investigators say if he had been in there any longer he may not have survived.

"Whenever it's a kid it always kind of tugs at your heart and it turns a little bit more," said Long Beach Fire Paramedic Joyce Vanderweide. "And we really look forward to the positive results like the results that we did see with this child. So we were all lucky."

Doctors at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center say the boy is making an amazing recovery and is now in stable condition.

His mother is set to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.


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