There’s a lesson to be learned about mail carrier Tom Martin’s heroic actions at the scene of a March 15 house fire on his daily route in Somerton.
Martin could’ve stormed into the burning, smoke-filled twin that morning to rescue a woman, her infant child and the family’s two small dogs. But he didn’t.
He kept his head.
And he helped the woman keep hers.
As a result, the woman, her baby and both pets survived the blaze unscathed.
“I didn’t think it was a very big deal, but some people think it’s something,” said Martin, 53, a Feltonville native and former Northeast resident now living in Richboro, Bucks County.
The fire occurred on the 800 block of Hendrix St. Martin had already delivered mail to the homes on that block and was walking door-to-door on Barlow Street, one block to the south. He began to hear the eerie sound of burning.
“Nobody was out there and I heard the crackling of fire, like something was burning,” he said. “I thought maybe somebody was burning wood, then I thought, ‘Nah.’
“I know what wood burning sounds like. I have a wood stove. I knew it was something else.”
He walked into a back yard for a closer look. He saw flames starting to engulf the rear of a house on Hendrix Street.
“I knew it wasn’t little,” he said.
His first instinct was to call 911. Knowing that Engine 58 is stationed at 812 Hendrix St., he hoped firefighters would be there quickly.
Then again, he didn’t want to risk waiting those few extra moments, so he leapt into action.
He climbed over a 3- or 4-foot fence and jumped down a 4-foot retaining wall into a yard on Hendrix Street. Then he cut through another neighbor’s yard to get to the front door of the burning house. The young mother had her baby in her arms.
Martin and a neighbor said that the child is less than a year old. They are uncertain of the gender. The Northeast Times was unable to reach the family, which was displaced from its home.
“[The woman] came running out with her baby. She hands the baby to a neighbor and I said, ‘Is everybody out?’ ” Martin recalled. “She said her two little dogs were still inside. She has two little white dogs. I knew we had some time, so I said, ‘Let’s go get them.’ ”
They didn’t have as much time as he thought. When the duo reopened the front door, smoke came billowing out.
“You couldn’t see a foot in front of you and it was [only burning] like three minutes. Both of us put a foot in the front door and I said, ‘We can’t go in there,’ ” Martin recalled.
“We looked at each other and both knew it was too bad. I grabbed her arm and she said, ‘I know, you’re right.’ ”
They left the door open, hoping the dogs would come running. But they didn’t. They probably were hiding from the flames.
Martin hoped firefighters would rescue the dogs. As the engine arrived, a neighbor wrapped the woman’s baby in a blanket. After about 20 minutes, Martin knew he had to return to his mail route, not knowing the fate of the pets.
The victims and neighbors gave him a full report the next day.
“I heard the firefighters put out the flames, then the dogs came running down,” Martin said. “They were covered in soot. The lady said they were fine the next day. I think they were in (the fire) a half-hour. Because they’re so small, they probably were under the smoke.”
Martin, the father of three adult children, was glad he didn’t have to do more in the heat of the moment.
“I’m just glad the baby was out because [the mother] would’ve gone in and I would’ve gone in. You’re going to do whatever you can to get the baby out of there,” he said.
It’s like a parental instinct.
“Yeah,” he agreed.
As for the dogs …
“I’m actually a cat lover, but a lot of my friends are dog lovers and I know they would do anything for their dogs, too,” Martin said.
Those affected by the fire had nothing but praise the following day. Martin has been a mail carrier for 25 years, including 15 years based at the Bustleton post office. He’s been on his current route for just six months.
“I don’t think it was any big deal. But the next day, the husband and wife came down and they were very, very thankful I called 911 right away,” Martin said. “And the husband was really glad we didn’t go back in. The lady next door, she was thanking me up and down. She had a lot of smoke come through the wall and she said if I didn’t call (911) so soon, her house would’ve burnt.
“I just figured, I’m there, I’ve got to do something to help. That’s the way I was raised.” ••EndFragment