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August 26, 2011

Neighbors and EMT save Mass. boy from fire

States News Service

BOSTON, Mass. — The flames had not reached the door of Anthony Thainiyums third-floor bedroom in Allston. But the smoke, acrid and deadly, was already there.

The boy, 10, lay unconscious and limp and locked behind a door at 4 Wadsworth St.

Smoke filled his lungs. Minutes mattered.

But help was on the way Monday night.

Krittiya Chotising, 58, who owns the three-decker, had just finished showering on the second floor when she saw the smoke. Chotising, who doesnt speak English, called 911 and then her cousin, Tosak Hoontakul, 42. Hoontakul, the president of the Boston-area Thailand Association, a group of about 5,000 people of Thai heritage, summoned friends living on Wadsworth near Chotisings house.

Woot Suraphanphithak, 25, and two friends barreled toward the house. They ran inside and tried to douse the fire. They banged on Anthonys door, yelling out the boys name. There was no answer.

Suraphanphithak kicked in the door. They scooped up Anthony. On the second floor, Suraphanphithak placed the boy on the floor and tried to resuscitate him with CPR. Anthonys eyes opened, slightly.

"I didnt really think if I was going to get caught in the fire," Suraphanphithak said. I just wanted to help get Anthony out.

Outside, panicked relatives and residents pointed to the top floor as an off-duty Boston emergency medical technician, Ed Burke, arrived. He was going to a training session when he heard the emergency call crackle on his radio and headed for Wadsworth Street.

"I was off duty; I didnt have my normal tools with me," Burke said. And I didnt know who was going to be here when I got out to help.

The veteran EMT clambered up to the second floor. Knowing that smoke is the deadliest component of fire, Burke grabbed the boy by the torso and told the others, "We need to leave now."

Suraphanphithak helped carry Anthony.

Outside, an EMT crew took over and ferried the boy to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation. He was listed in stable condition yesterday.

Susan Schiller, Boston Emergency Medical Services deputy superintendent, said Burke probably saved the 10-year-olds life.

"His lungs were being damaged every moment he was in that smoke, so just pulling him out of that smoke and giving him oxygen made a huge difference," Schiller said. "Even if it had been only two or three more minutes, the damage to his lungs . . . would have been very, very severe."

Wipappron Thainiyum, Anthonys mother, had left the house to go to a grocery store, and told Chotising she would be back soon. When she returned, much of the top floor of the house had burned. Yesterday, she was unavailable for comment, spending most of her time at the side of Anthonys hospital bed.

Damage to the house was estimated at $50,000. The fire is not considered suspicious, and investigators are conducting more interviews before they determine a cause. The blaze was confined to the third floor and extinguished by Boston firefighters within 10 minutes, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald.

Burke described this as among his most memorable rescues.

"Its a lot of relief in knowing you got somebody out who otherwise would be in a really bad place," he said. "You feel really good about being able to make that difference. "

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