Not a Hero
Richard Tomasello, a lieutenant on the Scranton, Pennsylvania Fire Department, has never considered himself a hero. He would tell you that climbing into burning buildings, rescuing people and sometimes running out of oxygen are things that just go with the job. But he does his share of praying just the same. He knows that God can move air and space whenever He wishes to do so.
On a day in January, Richard’s engine company was called to a house engulfed in flames. “There’s someone in there,” one of the men called to Richard. “I’m going in!” he responded.
Richard searched the bedrooms first, but there was no one there. “Then I turned to enter the other room, and the full blast of the fire hit me,” he recalls. The explosion was so strong that it knocked Richard’s helmet off. And there was no hose line of water here! He had to get out, immediately. “I broke the window panes out around me—I could barely see them through the smoke—and when the glass fell, someone below ran and got a ladder, and also threw a hose up to me,” he says.
The fire was roaring now, much too strong to be put out with just one thin stream of water, so Richard kept wetting down the area around him, hopefully keeping the approaching flames from burning him. Then his oxygen tank alarm went off. Only a few moments of air left.
“I backed up to the window, and tried to get through it,” Richard recalls. “There was no chance. It was a real small opening, and I was way too big for it.” Richard pushed, pulled, squeezed and wriggled, while continuing to wet the flames now licking at his coat, but there was no possibility. He was going to be burned alive, right here, right now. If he didn’t die first of smoke inhalation…
No. He wouldn’t go so easily. “God, please help,” he whispered, then stuck his head through the minuscule opening again. This time he perceived something that had not been there before. It was a touch, all around him, that he could feel but not see, a circular barrier between him and the dangerous heat and flames. Now he was being lifted, now going right through the window….!
Richard came out of the opening headfirst, grabbed the top of the ladder, and made his way down to the street. His fellow firefighters stared at him in astonishment. They had been getting ready to go up and get him, they explained, but via another route. How had he gotten through that tiny window?
When they took the ladder down, they had another surprise. The top few rungs were completely burned. The flames had obviously leaped out the window, while Richard was trying to get out of it. Richard’s white lieutenant shirt collar, sticking out from under his protective coat, was entirely black too.
Yet, although his helmet had fallen off, and the flames had been all around him, he had no burns, not even any soot, on his head or face. It was as if he had been enfolded in powerful, protective arms. The situation seemed impossible. And yet it had happened.
Richard’s wife, Joanne, had the answer when he related the story to her that night. “It was a miracle,” she said simply. And why not?