WATERTOWN — Former volunteer firefighter Kyle J. Sample would be the last one to call himself a hero after saving his family from a fire on New York Avenue early Saturday morning.
“He would just tell you that he’s a dad,” town of Watertown Fire Chief Charlie M. Dillon said.
But Chief Dillon said the former Watertown volunteer firefighter should be hailed as a hero. The Fort Drum soldier helped his family escape from the second floor of their home at 517 New York Ave. when their bathroom caught fire.
“The first thing that was on his mind was that he was a dad,” Chief Dillon said. “And that would be me, too.”
When they got the call, city firefighters were told that people were trapped inside.
According to accounts he’s heard, Chief Dillon said that when firefighters arrived, Sgt. Sample was hanging his son, Kadence, 4, out of a window until help arrived. The young father then went back into the flames to retrieve daughter Isabelle, 3, from another bedroom.
During the ordeal, Sgt. Sample suffered second-degree burns across his back and on the back of his legs and arms, the fire chief said. The sergeant remains in Upstate Medical University Center, but his condition has been downgraded from serious to critical.
All five were brought on Saturday morning to the medical center’s burn unit after being rescued.
More than 15 members from the town of Watertown Fire Department were at the fire scene on Monday night to help however they could.
At the request of the family, the firefighters — armed with drills and other tools — secured the house from the weather by putting up plywood on the broken windows and repairing a hole in the roof put there while firefighters fought the blaze.
Family members wanted to make sure their belongings were protected, department Chaplain Leon VanWie said.
“We all come together to help one of our brothers,” Mr. VanWie said.
Until recently, Sgt. Sample served with the volunteer fire department but was forced to resign because he was going to be deployed to South Korea. He had been with the department for about four years.
Now the deployment has been put on hold while Sgt. Sample recovers from his injuries.
“Burns are a tough thing,” Mr. VanWie said. “They’re difficult to heal. It’s a long process.”
Right now, his treatment is focused on stabilizing him before the burn treatment begins.
While the house sustained some damage, the family has been left without any clothing and their belongings remain in the house, Mr. VanWie said. The fire department plans to work on getting some gift cards to help the family. Members also plan to discuss the situation at the department’s monthly meeting on Wednesday.
A GoFundMe account also has been set up to help raise money for the family.
“Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Mr. VanWie said.
Sgt. Sample’s wife, Elizabeth, who’s on a ventilator, was listed in fair condition at Upstate on Monday. The son has been upgraded to good and the daughter and grandmother, Carol Lake, 61, were released from the medical center, hospital officials said.
Fire investigators believe either an electric space heater or an extension cord from the heater may have been the cause of the blaze.
Two firefighters and a police officer also were slightly injured at the scene. It took about 10 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the fire.
Fort Drum’s public affairs office said that Sgt. Sample is a military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator in the 10th Mountain Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Support Battalion.
Information about the GoFundMe for Sgt. Sample can be found at http://wdt.me/sample-fundraiser.
Times Staff Writer Gordon Block contributed to this report.
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