'They were screaming for help': Dublin man on dramatic rescue of baby and family from fire

'They were screaming for help': Dublin man on dramatic rescue of baby and family from fire

A Dublin man has spoken about a dramatic rescue of a toddler from a fire in the city centre a few weeks ago.

Tommy Lawlor had been renting a bedsit in a Georgian building on Mountjoy Square since before Christmas.

"I had a bedsit down the back of the building," he told RTÉ Radio 1's Liveline. "I was in there since the week before Christmas because the old house I was living in, I was living there for seven years and the landlord sold up. I had to find somewhere and that was the only place I could find, a little bedsit in a huge building.

"There were 10 or 15 people there to view it. They had to let people in one at a time to view because the place was so small. I was looking at four places last night and it was the exact same thing."

Tommy says up to 150 people were living in the Mountjoy Square flats on the day of the fire.

"I thought it was over 30 flats because there were at least 30 letterboxes anyway. The garda on the day said there was 150 people there. It's like three Georgian buildings all interconnected. I was in the second building, the middle one, right down the back on the first floor."

'They were screaming for help': Dublin man on dramatic rescue of baby and family from fire

Three weeks ago Tommy noticed smoke coming into his flat early in the morning.

"It was at seven o'clock in the morning. I was making my sambos to go to college and the alarm just went off. I went to the door, I put me hand on the door and it wasn't warm. As soon as I opened my door a big load of smoke just came into my room so I shut the door as quickly as I could. I just panicked."

Tommy grabbed his keys and wallet and managed to climb through his window and ring the emergency services.

"I went out the window, and first thing I got out the phone and rang the emergency services and I walked around so I could look in and see other parts of the building. I could look down into the basement area and that's where all the flames were coming out and smoke was coming out. That was right underneath my apartment.

"At that stage the adrenaline was pumping and I was talking really quickly to the person on the emergency line and they were telling me to slow down. Then I heard screaming and shouting so I went back to where I was. From my window I could see a couple in the flat above me and they were screaming for help. 'Get us out of here, we can't get out on our own and we have a child. Help us.' They were panicking.

"I didn't know what to do. I looked around, saw this big old three-seater leather couch at the far end of the yard and somehow I managed to drag it. I dragged it and put it up against the wall by its legs and I climbed up it.

'They were screaming for help': Dublin man on dramatic rescue of baby and family from fire

"I was sitting on the arm of the couch. I was holding on with one hand and as soon as I got to the top the couple said 'save our baby', and they dropped a child into me arms. She was about two or three years old. She was in shock, she didn't know what was going on. Then she realised this is blood and she started fighting me then, you know what kids do when they want to get out of your arms, contorting and stuff. They bend their body in all kinds of weird ways.

"The couch was wobbling anyway, and she does this so it starts wobbling even more. It was like some kind of circus trick that we're balancing and I have a child in me hands.

"Eventually I start thinking how do I get down from this? I'm holding on with one hand, I've got the child in the other hand and I couldn't see a way out of it. Luckily the child wanted to jump over me shoulder, so I have her over my shoulder with one arm, so I was able to turn around and use the couch as a slide and I slid down into the yard with the kid still in me arms.

"Then one of the other doors of the building opened up and a couple came out, and I just handed the baby to the lady and said 'take her, get her out of here'. Then I went back to the couch to hold it so the poor kid's father could get out the window. So he got onto the couch, he climbed down, and then we had to persuade the mother to come down after us. And then when she did there were still people standing around who didn't know what to do. I was like 'come on, just get out of here'. So we went through another one of the buildings and I led them - there was tonnes of smoke - through that building and we got out.

"As soon as we got out, the mother of the child, she starts screaming. She goes 'where's my baby, where's my baby?' I thought oh my god, where is her baby? I couldn't remember who I gave the baby to. I couldn't remember what she looked like, I couldn't remember what she wore. I only remembered that the child was wearing a pink dressing gown. So we were walking up and down the street looking for this child and I could still here the mother screaming 'where's my baby'.

"Eventually, all the familiy, they were together. So at this stage the fire brigade turned up, a few engines first. They stuck up the ladder to help the people who were stuck on the third and fourth floor. They said if the fire brigade didn't get there when they did, they were going to jump. It took a couple of minutes, probably only seconds, but it seemed like it took the fire brigade a long time to get themselves sorted, to put up the ladder and get everybody down.

"It took a while for the fire brigade to make sure that everybody was safe because the building is so vast and there are so many flats and stairwells, it was like a maze. It took a long time and it was very stressful. Everybody was crying and everyone was in shock. A few people had to be brought off in ambulances because of stress and shock and smoke inhalation."

Tommy's flat and his possessions were destroyed in the fire and he is currently looking for a new home.

"All the plaster was on the ground, there was three inches or more of water. Everything I owned was destroyed in that fire.

"The one thing that survived is the sandwich I was making for me lunch."

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