In ten years as a Georgia firefighter, Robert Sutton had seen his fair share of blazes. But when the 31-year-old father of two reported to the scene of an apartment fire in DeKalb County Tuesday, he encountered a rescue situation he had never seen before.
Sutton was covering a colleague’s 24-hour shift that day when a call came in from the dispatcher in the afternoon, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A fire had broken out on Glenwood Road in Decatur, Georgia, not far from where Sutton himself had been raised.
Sutton immediately headed to the scene with the crew of firefighters, where they spotted a serious fire billowing from an apartment complex on the street, Fox 5 reported. He began suiting up, preparing to enter the burning building, when he saw a man rush to the second-story window and knock out the window screen.
“I got a baby, I got a baby!” Sutton heard him cough, according to the Journal-Constitution. He reached out of the window, an infant in his hands.
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Sutton’s department had never gone over a situation with a baby hanging out of a window like this, he recalled later to the paper. But the firefighter had to react quickly, he later said.
“Drop him!” he shouted to the father, and a moment later, the baby was in his arms.
“It was my first time in a situation like that,” Sutton later told Fox 5. He quickly ran with the child to have him examined by emergency medics, and firefighters swiftly rescued the father as well by ladder, according to Good Morning America.
But unbeknownst to Sutton, Larry Carter, a plumber who working in the building next door, captured the rescue on tape, Fox 5 reported. And as Sutton shook the father’s hand before he headed off to the next call, he didn’t know the video would soon be shared widely by people calling him a hero.
The next day, a television station called the fire department, asking to interview Sutton, he recalled to the Journal-Constitution. He told his wife he might be on the news, to the thrill of their two young sons.
But Sutton’s turn in the sun wasn’t over: the next day, another interview request came. Then another.
It wasn’t just Sutton they wanted to talk to — Sutton’s colleagues were interviewed, and quick to praise his swift thinking on camera. Captain Tom Burrell told Fox 5 that he was tremendously proud of Sutton, and that the rescue highlighted the need for firefighters to react quickly to the situations around them.
“There's not really one thing that prepares you for what Firefighter Sutton and his colleagues encountered yesterday,” he told the station. “It's good training. It's years of experience and having a good sense of situational awareness.”
By Friday morning, while Sutton was on another shift at the fire station, one of his colleagues pointed to the television: the video of Sutton was even being aired on ABC on “Good Morning America.”
Sutton said he was thankful for the praise, but by Friday, he was ready to get back to work.
“It feels like I’m a celebrity or something,” he told the Journal-Constitution, though he credited his fellow firefighters and expressed gratitude for being “in the right place at the right time.”
“If I could save a baby everyday, I would,” he added.