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SLCPD lieutenant speaks about rescue of toddler in burning house

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Posted at 10:31 PM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 00:31:22-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A family is without a home for Christmas and one little girl is in serious condition after Salt Lake City fire crews responded to a two-alarm house fire just after 2 a.m. Tuesday.

According to the Salt Lake City Fire Department over 30 firefighters arrived at 1109 South and 700 East to find flames and smoke coming from the first floor of the house.

But before firefighters could get there, a number of police officers arrived on scene.

"I take two steps and the heat just blows me back," said Lt. Craig Gleason with Salt Lake City Police Department.

Other officers joined Gleason in trying to get into the home to save a toddler trapped inside the home, but the flames were too hot.  As firefighters arrived, the flames remained burning.

"I looked out of the corner of my eye and we still had flames rolling over the top of us," said Firefighter Brody O'Connor with Salt Lake City Fire Department.

As firefighters went in to look for the girl, Gleason remained outside trying to help.

"They were marching into that fire," said Gleason of the firefighters. "But I've had a 3-year-old, and somewhere in there is that little kid, and she’s waiting for someone to save her. So, I stuck my head in the window and there she was.”

Gleason attempted to pull the girl to safety, but the sharp broken glass at the window kept him from doing so.  So, he called in to firefighters for help.

"You could only see their headlamps," Gleason said. "I was screaming to them, 'Hey I’ve got her, she’s right here.’"

"I saw the child laying there," O'Connor said.  "I picked her up and went to the front door."

Paramedics worked to revive the girl, but Gleason said her face looked purple, and he feared the worst.

Fortunately, he was wrong.

"She drew a breath, ahhh, and then everybody cried,” Gleason said with a smile.

Within 30 minutes, fire crews had the entire fire under control, and that's when they found another family member.

"They thought it was a stuffed animal at first," said Jasen Asay, spokesman with the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

The family dog was pulled out with difficulty breathing, but a breathing apparatus helped revive the pet.

As of Tuesday night, the 3-year-old girl was recovering at a local hospital in serious condition.

Her mother, and 6-year-old sister suffered minor smoke inhalation injuries.