Unusual fire rescue on St. Paul's East Side earns praise

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 9:53 PM

Rescuers saved the life of a 17-year-old girl who was found unresponsive inside a burning house on St. Paul’s East Side.

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Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard, left, and Chief Tim Butler, right, celebrated with Dr. R.J. Frascone after he was honored for helping save the life of a 17-year-old fire victim.

Photo: Photos by ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com ,

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When St. Paul firefighters were called to a kitchen fire on the East Side in January, there was no indication that anyone was home.

Flames shot out the back of the house. Some firefighters fought the blaze and others ascended to the upper level, where the smoke was so thick that they couldn’t see.

Capt. Mike Hamburger and firefighters Daniel Pierskalla and Andrew Pawlitschek felt their way through each room, searching for survivors until they came upon a 17-year-old girl in the farthest bedroom. She had no heartbeat.

The men rushed her downstairs, where a crew of Regions Hospital doctors and firefighters performed CPR on her inside the smoldering house and brought her back from clinical death.

On Tuesday, several firefighters and Drs. Bjorn Peterson and R.J. Frascone were recognized by the department for their efforts.

Fire Chief Tim Butler called it the “most selfless” rescue he’s seen. The doctors and firefighters had to work on the girl, including intubating her, in the house as it smoldered because it was too cold to bring her outside. They were awaiting an ambulance. Butler and Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said several crews fought the fire and others aired out the first level by breaking open windows and doors so others could safely work on the girl.

She still is in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, but is improving.

Peterson and Frascone received the department’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award. Several firefighters received recognition awards or letters of recognition or commendation.

“With our training, we make it work, said firefighter Jason Saver, who performed CPR on the girl. “It was just boom, boom, boom.”

Chao Xiong • 651-925-5034

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  • The Meritorious Service Award is the highest honor that the St. Paul Fire Department can bestow.

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