February 22

Bath dad dropped son by his ankles to firefighter and safety

Jon Tanguay says he’s grateful he and his son were able to escape Thursday’s house fire on South Street.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BATH — Jon Tanguay couldn’t stop fretting over the loss of his family’s five cats in a house fire Thursday. His wife couldn’t stop gushing about how Tanguay and Bath firefighters saved her son.

click image to enlarge

Jon Tanguay and his son Nicholas, 4, shown together in Bath on Friday, escaped a fire Thursday at their home at 62 South St. “I couldn’t see a thing (because of the smoke),” Tanguay said. “Luckily, I was able to hold him.”

Photos by Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Jon Tanguay and his son Nicholas, 4, escaped a house fire from this house at 62 South St. in Bath.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

“He was absolutely a hero,” said Tanya Tanguay, gazing at her husband outside the house at 62 South St., a three-story, 125-year-old Victorian that her father painstakingly restored over the past 19 years.

She also praised Joe McCole, the firefighter who stood on a porch roof and caught her son as he was dangled from a third-floor window, then helped her husband drop down to safety.

“You saved my world,” she told the 25-year veteran of the Bath Fire Department.

The house caught fire about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, with Jon Tanguay and 4-year-old Nicholas Tanguay trapped on the third floor.

Jon Tanguay, 37, had just returned from his job doing maintenance at Morse High School, a bit early because of the school vacation. His mother-in-law had been watching Nicholas but left to run errands once Tanguay got home.

Tanguay was doing laundry on the second floor when he saw smoke and heard the smoke alarm. He ran upstairs to get Nicholas.

The smoke in the stairway was impenetrable so they couldn’t get back down. He called 911.

“The firefighter said if we waited any longer (to call), we wouldn’t be here today,” Tanguay said Friday morning, still exhausted and rattled by his experience.

The emergency dispatcher told him to close the bedroom door and put a towel on the floor to keep smoke from entering. But the door, which had an opening to let the family’s cats come and go from the third-floor kitchen, allowed smoke to fill the room. Nicholas, an energetic preschooler, was frightened.

“I couldn’t see a thing. Luckily, I was able to hold him,” Tanguay said.

Tanguay and Nicholas made their way through the smoke-filled third-floor kitchen, Tanguay feeling his way and making for the light coming from the living room at the front of the house. As he looked out the window, he saw the first fire truck.

Fire Chief Steve Hinds was at the station, a few blocks away, when the alarm sounded for a possible structure fire. He was the first to arrive.

“I could see a lot of heavy smoke in the rear of the building and coming out the front windows, and knew in a second we had a fully involved structure fire,” he said.

As he planned how to attack the fire, he saw people waving at him frantically from the third-floor window. “The game plan changed immediately, to rescue the people,” he said.

With flames, heat and smoke climbing quickly, there was no time to get the department’s aerial ladder in position, he said. Firefighters leaned an extension ladder against the roof of the front porch while Hinds stretched hand lines, spraying water on the first floor, the staircases in particular, to buy time for the rescuers.

Capt. Chris Cummings and Firefighter Joe McCole climbed to the porch roof. By then, Tanguay had opened the window so he and his son could breathe.

“You could see him and his child with dark smoke coming out behind him,” McCole said.

While McCole stood on the porch roof, Tanguay lowered Nicholas by the ankles and McCole grabbed his wrists, then caught him as his father let go. McCole passed the boy to Cummings, who carried him down the ladder to a waiting ambulance.

Tanguay then hung from the window sill as dark smoke poured out of the window, and dropped to the porch roof. By then – four minutes after firefighters arrived – McCole and Tanguay climbed onto the aerial platform.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Firefighter Joe McCole rescued Nicholas Tanguay, 4, and his father, Jon, from a burning house in Bath on Thursday. “You saved my world,” said Tanya Tanguay, Jon’s wife and the boy’s mother.


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