VIDEO: Newton Fire Rescue Earns Newton Firefighter Hero Status
The young firefighter was off-duty when he drove by the blaze and saved a family of three.
It always seems like heroes are men and women of very few words.
This was certainly the case for Newton resident and firefighter Nick McGrath, who simply replied he "was in the right place at the right time" when he rushed into a burning building on Auburndale Avenue in Newton Wednesday and saved a family of three.
McGrath, 25, was honored yesterday by Newton Mayor Setti Warren with a certificate of commendation and appreciation for his heroic efforts during the fire.
"We're so proud of the fact that he went went above and beyond the call of duty to protect people," Warren said. "This is something that is part of the ethos of our firefighters here in Newton."
Warren said McGrath, who has been a firefighter for just over a year, didn't seek any sort of attention or appreciation for his efforts, making his story that much "stronger."
McGrath was driving down Auburndale Avenue after a shift Wednesday when he spotted the fire in the back of the three-story building. He met a woman at the front door who was yelling at him about a family on the second floor and he ran up to kick in the door of the second-floor apartment. He then rushed the family -- a mother, father and infant -- out of the building.
After helping the family, McGrath then ran to the third floor apartment where he kicked in the door again to search for other residents. When he found no one on the third story, he retreated from the building and eventually left the scene.
While standing in front of a group of reporters yesterday afternoon at Newton Fire Department's Station 2, McGrath had little to say about his efforts. When asked what he was thinking as he entered the apartments, he replied with a smile, "I wasn't."
"[The family] had no idea the house was on fire," McGrath said.
McGrath said he didn't have any gear on him and was in civilian clothes when he entered the apartments. He didn't initially tell anyone about his efforts, only mentioning it to his girlfriend when he got home.
"I am very thankful and grateful for [McGrath's actions] as is the entire community and department as well," said Fire Chief Bruce Proia.
Proia also noted the efforts of other firefighters who responded to the scene. Even after McGrath rescued the family, there were still reports of someone possibly trapped inside.
"These firefighters were fighting their way into the inferno," Proia said.
Thankfully, everyone was eventually accounted for, as the two residents on the third floor were not home at the time of the fire.
The three-alarm fire, which filled the West Newton area with smoke, was battled by more than 40 firefighters, Proia said.
According to Newton's Assessor's Database, the three-family building, located at 10 Auburndale Ave., is owned by Lisa and Bernardo Marzilli. It's fiscal 2011 estimated value was $460,300.