June 21–LAWRENCE — Firefighter Peter Humphrey was on Ladder 5 in a race through early morning darkness when he saw flames and smoke coming from the eaves of the burning Arlington Street two-family residence.
“I saw what looked like a kid coming out of the building on the roof,” said Humphrey, a 44-year-old father.
Seconds later, with help from fellow firefighter Wilson Ventura, Humphrey was up on the ladder rescuing a petite, 22-year-old woman as “fire was blowing right over her head.”
“As I got closer, I realized it was a woman and not a little kid,” Humphrey said.
Terrified and naked, Zhyma Alvarez, a 100-pound woman, had crawled out of a small window onto the roof and was “hovering in a ball,” overwhelmed by a mix of shock and fear, Humphrey said.
“I said, ‘You are not going to fall. I’ve got you,'” he recalled.
She said, “‘I’m naked. I’ve got no clothes on.'”
“I told her we’d get her something,” said Humphrey, explaining how he held onto the woman and eased her down the ladder to safety.
“I just kept talking to her and telling her she was going to be fine,” Humphrey said.
When they reached the ground, a waiting police officer quickly wrapped her in a blanket. She was taken to Lawrence General Hospital as a precaution, he said.
Alvarez, who lives on the third floor at 18 Arlington St., was released later Wednesday morning.
Fire Chief Brian Moriarty praised the work of Humphrey, who like himself is a former Haverhill firefighter who came to work in Lawrence.
“It was awesome, just awesome,” Moriarty said of the rescue and work of city firefighters Wednesday.
The 1:15 a.m. fire is believed to have started accidentally on the third floor when a candle was left unattended, Moriarty said.
In all, some 14 residents were affected.
Damage was estimated at $200,000 in the two-family home which is owned by Garcia Jose Benet and was built in 1910. The home is valued at $252,900, according to city assessing records.
Echoing Moriarty, Humphrey agreed his fellow firefighters, including his twin brother, Eric Humphrey, “kicked butt” at the fire.
“Those guys took a beating and saved the house,” he said.
Throughout the day, Humphrey said he received calls and messages congratulating him on the rescue. Previously, as a Haverhill firefighter, Humphrey also rescued someone from a burning building.
“They are all reading about it and it’s pretty cool,” he said.
He noted his crew, at the direction of fire Capt. Wayne Leduc, just had a ladder training rescue.
“We were talking about the scenario of someone being in the window,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey, who has a combined 22 years in firefighting, said the profession often sees the darker side of society.
“When you get something good out of it, it makes you want to keep going,” he said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.
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