CENTRAL FALLS – A city woman is being hailed a hero after rescuing a mother and her 3-year-old daughter from a burning three-family apartment building on Lincoln Avenue Saturday morning.
Battalion Chief Keith Sullivan said the 9:34 a.m. fire broke out in the kitchen on the first floor of the 99 Lincoln Avenue building, which quickly filled with thick, heavy smoke.
The second and third-floor residents were able to escape the two-alarm blaze, but first-floor occupants Dolores Leblue, 32, and her 3-year-old daughter, Ja-Nyah, were trapped in a bedroom, sealed off from their front door by the heavy smoke in their living room.
That’s when Dominique Small, 26, a friend and neighbor who lives across the street at 127 Lincoln Ave., jumped into action.
“I was outside talking to my landlord and looked across the street and saw smoke coming out from the top of the roof and realized the building was on fire,” said Small.
Small quickly realized that Leblue and her daughter were still inside the apartment because everyone else who lived in the building were already milling around outside waiting for firefighters to arrive.
“She’s always home and I knew she was up late the night before so I was worried she might still be inside sleeping,” Small said.
Small ran over and kicked open the front door and was immediately met with a wave of the kind of thick black smoke that can render a person unconscious after a few breaths.
Unable to enter the front door, she ran to a side bedroom window and noticed that the air conditioner in the window was moving.
“Dolores was trying to pull the AC back through the window so they could get out, but she couldn’t move it herself,” says Small.
Small then climbed up a fence located a couple of feet from the side of the building and with one arm grabbing the fence, kicked the air conditioner through the window. Small looked inside and saw Leblue crying and in a state of shock.
“I started screaming ‘where’s Ja-Nyah? Where’s Ja-Nyah? Then she pulled her up off the floor and handed her through the window towards me.”
Small grabbed the little girl and hoisted her safely over the fence.
She then leaned back to toward the window and tried to pull Leblue out.
“I told her to bear-hug me and I managed to get her out,” said Small, who stands 5’4” tall and weighs 150 lbs.
Another neighbor, Alexander Rivera of 139 Lincoln Ave., helped drag Leblue to safety just as firefighters were arriving on the scene.
“Something just kicked in at that moment,” Small says of her heroic actions.
“These two neighbors did a great job,” said Chief Sullivan. “Without their quick actions this could have had a different outcome.”
Both Leblue and her daughter were taken to Pawtucket Memorial Hospital were they were treated for minor injuries and released, Sullivan said.
Firefighters arriving at the scene found heavy smoke coming from the roof and called in assistance from Pawtucket, Lincoln and Cumberland.
About 30 firefighters battled the blaze, which caused moderate damage to the first floor. The fire scene was cleared just before 1:30 p.m.
Damage estimates to the building, which is owned by Ronald Raheb of Lincoln, had not been compiled as of early Monday morning.
The state fire marshal is investigating the fire, which is being attributed to a grease fire on the stove in Leblue’s kitchen.
The incident mirrors one in East Providence a couple of months ago when two Riverside men were hailed as heroes for helping their 91-year-old neighbor escape from her burning home on Oak Crest Drive.
According to firefighters in that city, 91-year-old Pauline Vickers of 95 Oak Crest Drive was pulled from her burning Riverside home by Thomas Walmsley and Nicholas Fowler who saw Vickers trying to escape through a bedroom window.
Vickers was taken to Rhode Island Hospital where she was treated and released for smoke inhalation.
(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Tweeter @ jofitz7)