Two lives spared from fire—thanks to noise complaint

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 21, 2013

The Birmingham community has three new heroes to celebrate following an incident that happened early Wednesday morning — two police officers and one dog that just wouldn’t stop barking. 

According to Cmdr. Terry Kiernan of the Birmingham Police Department, two officers responded to the 1300 block of Webster at around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning on complaints of a barking dog. Officer Tony Giannola was dispatched to the home, and because the shift was rather slow that evening, officer Rebekah Springer decided to also respond to the scene.

Kiernan said that when they arrived they noticed a dog barking in the backyard of the home, just as the neighbor had reported. When they approached the house they noticed lights were on inside but the windows had been covered with cardboard and other items. Springer peered through an unblocked window at the top of the front door and noticed a heavy amount of smoke rolling through the inside of the house.

“They radioed the Fire Department, and meanwhile, (Giannola) was able to kick down the door in one kick,” said Kiernan. “The house was really filling up with smoke.”

Once the officers gained entry, Kiernan said, they were able to find a 31-year-old woman sleeping on a mattress with her 3-year-old daughter in one of the bedrooms. Officers reported seeing the little girl coughing in her sleep due to the smoke filling the home.

“(Springer) grabs the kid and gets her out. (Giannola) tried to wake the woman up but he couldn’t, so he basically dragged her out of the house,” Kiernan said.

As they pulled the woman and her daughter out of the smoke-filled home, paramedics from the Birmingham Fire Department arrived. After being treated, the two were determined to be all right and refused transportation to a local hospital.

Kiernan said the smoke was caused by a burning pot that had been left on the electric stove for hours.

“She put a big pot of rice on the stove around midnight, and the stove was on high,” said Kiernan. “The pot was melting down, and obviously the food was burnt to a crisp. Apparently the range was bright red.”

The two reportedly stayed with the woman’s mother that night because of the significant smoke left in the house. Police said the woman had been drinking. Kiernan said reports have been submitted to outside agencies, including Child Protective Services, for a review of criminal charges.

The important thing, Kiernan said, is that officers were able to arrive in time to save the mother and her little girl.

“Had the neighbor not called on the barking dog, odds are that thing would’ve lit up somewhere along the line,” he said, adding that Giannola and Springer should be commended for their bravery and quick-thinking.

“They’re heroes,” he said.