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'Failure was not an option,' says Georgia firefighter who caught girl dropped from blazing building

A county in Georgia has released dramatic footage of a child being dropped into the arms of firefighter Capt. Scott Stroup during an apartment fire.
Firefighters in Georgia have released dramatic footage of a child being dropped into the arms of Capt. Scott Stroup during an apartment fire in Decatur. 0:20
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Story transcript

When firefighters arrived at the apartment block in Decatur, Ga., flames were already ripping through the building.

The firefighters scrambled to get ladders up to rescue the trapped families. Then, with almost no warning, a child was dropped from a third-floor balcony.

Luckily, Capt. Scott Stroup was ready.

This dramatic helmet-camera footage of the amazing catch was released by the DeKalb County Professional Firefighters Association today.

About a dozen people were injured in the Jan. 3, 2017, fire, but there were no deaths. 

Stroup told As It Happens co-host Carol Off about his dramatic rescue. Here is part of their conversation: 

Can you describe the moment when you realized that this young child was falling toward you?

I saw the sheer panic in the father when we got there and I knew ... that child was coming off that balcony. When I ran up, everything happened so quick. As soon as the child hit my arms, I was like, "Thank God." And I was trying to get the child out from the fire because it was hot where we were standing. 

Where was the father standing when he dropped his child to you?

He was on the third floor. He had just made a transition off the balcony, onto the ground ladder and, you know, there was fire rolling above their heads. The father was burned. I don't know if he could have held on to the ladder and got safely on the ladder.

I was just standing right there and I saw that. I was in the transition of putting on my gear to actually go in and fight the fire and I saw this and I was like, yeah. And I ran over there and caught the child even without my helmet on.

Did the father say he was going to drop the child? Did you communicate with him at all before he let her go?

They were all screaming ... and when I got down to the ladder, I could see him barely hold on to the child. I said, "I've got he ... I've got the child ... I've got the kid." And he dropped it.

And did you feel completely confident that you were in position to catch that child?

Absolutely.

Wow. What a moment of trust between you and that dad.

Failure was not an option. 

What do you think was going through that father's mind as he was trusting you with that?

I could not imagine. There he was — he was trying to save his family's life by getting them out of the fire. So I cannot imagine what was going through that dad's [head], because he was burning. He suffered significant burns, I believe.

How did you feel the moment when you caught her?

To be honest, I mean, right then I was just, we were just doing a job. I was certainly glad and I was like, I knew I had to get the child out of the area. ... We still had a job to do. 

Have you ever been in a situation like that before as a firefighter?

I've been on apartment fires and stuff before where people are actually jumping. ... That was the most surreal ... because I seriously thought, "Oh my God, I'm hearing these people's last — I'm hearing their last screams."

There was another dramatic save at the same fire — local media reported that Capt. Jackie Peckrul caught a baby being thrown to safety. The baby is reported to be the younger sibling of the child caught by Stroup.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Capt. Scott Stroup, listen in the audio player above.