When North St. Paul firefighters responded to an apartment fire Sunday, they found the hydrant farther away than usual and no parking lot directly outside the building, Assistant Fire Chief Dustin Kalis said. No problem; they were trained to handle minor inconveniences, he said.

One thing they didn’t train him for was catching a 3-month-old infant from a second-story window.

“We don’t practice that,” Kalis said. “We don’t have drills where we throw stuff off the balcony. Nothing comes close to that.”

There were no fatalities in the Sunday fire, and firefighters even rescued two cats, said Fire Chief Scott Duddeck. Based on conversations and basic investigation, he said the fire likely was caused by a candle on the first floor.

But the video went viral, casting attention on Kalis that he’s found a little overwhelming. He said he’s taking advantage of the spotlight to warn people that things could’ve gone differently. Had fire broken out during the recent blizzard or at night, it might have been harder to evacuate residents of the 25 apartments.

“We see a lot of the time ... [that] people get complacent because fire alarms sometimes happen more than they should in buildings like that,” Kalis said. “So when you hear your alarm go off, get up and get out.”

The video was shot by Stephanie Rasmussen, whose husband Zach works with Kalis as a firefighter. Rasmussen, who lives across from the site of Sunday’s fire, was taking pictures of the firefighters for her husband, who was working his second job as a Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputy at the time.

Firefighters said later that it was funny Kalis caught the baby because he had been a high school linebacker, not a position that has much to do with catching a football. But Kalis said that the baby’s father insisted he had no other option than to drop the baby to him.

“I’ve got two kids of my own,” Kalis said. “I can’t imagine what the dad was feeling like in that moment.”

 

Emily Allen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.