Firefighter quits after saving woman, says chief's response was 'sarcastic'
A Charleston firefighter is speaking about why he quit the department after saving a woman's life. He says he didn’t like the way he was treated by the chief after the large fire at a historic home on Smith Street in July.
Fire crews from several departments rushed to the 3-alarm fire and battled flames and smoke for several hours.
"We were there for about 90 minutes, and we're told that we could take our air packs off. Because of that, we went into a defensive posture, meaning nobody can go in or out of the building because it's no longer safe for anyone to be in it," former Charleston firefighter Cameron Day said.
A woman came home to find flames raging through all three levels of the house. She ran inside to try and save her cat.
"We did have one occupant break through the fire line and head back into the structure," Interim Chief John Tippett said in a July press conference.
Day ran in to save the woman, and he did so without his air pack.
"She went up to the third floor in the house, so I immediately, as soon as I saw her, I ran up the steps," Day said.
Day said if he had waited, she would have likely died.
"The standard's two minutes to put all that gear on. Two minutes she didn't have. Two minutes. When I found her, she was crouched over and 20 feet in. A few more seconds and she would have been passed out on the floor, then would have ultimately burned up and died," Day said.
He was able to get her out safely and both were taken to the hospital.
"We had two that were transported as precautionary we have others that were being evaluated. Dehydration is a big issue," Tippett said in the same July press conference.
Day said she he returned to work, he didn't like how Tippett conveyed the situation.
"Friends were giving me a hard time, family asking me why I was dehydrated and stuff like that. So it was a little embarrassing for myself," Day said.
City spokesperson Jack O’Toole says Tippett met with Day on his next shift, and congratulated him for saving the woman's life. He also cautioned him on the dangers of entering a burning structure without wearing the proper equipment.
"He was very, in my opinion, very sarcastic to me, very disrespectful to me. He wasn't happy with what I did and told me I was going to have to write him an essay," Day said.
The city says as a part of department safety training practices, the chief asked him to demonstrate his understanding of those risks by writing a short essay on the subject.
"You risk a lot to save a lot. You save a life if you can. That's ingrained in the fire service. So, I told him that, and he said we don't risk what-so-ever at this fire department. 'If you would have died in there, that would have been a black eye for the fire department,'” Day said.
Day didn't agree, and he decided to leave the department.
"I believe that we should save the citizens whenever we have the possibility and if it's there. Just the way he portrayed it to me, is if it's not safe, don't do it. Well there's nothing safe about being a fireman," Day argues.
The city says they are grateful for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.