SAN ANTONIO – Fire, smoke and danger are part of the gig when you're a firefighter, but every once in a while something happens on the job that is far from routine. For a group of San Antonio firefighters that was certainly the case when a late night run turned into something they call "the catch." Engine 39’s Jeromy Wuneburger recalled his baby-catching abilities, by raising both hands to the sky.
"I just kind of did this number right here, and just caught her," says Wuneburger.
They are hands that save. That fight. That rescue. And in some cases, the hands that catch.
"Everything you've done up to that point with the department really doesn't matter, all you want to do is make sure you catch that baby," Wuneburger said.
The apartment fire occurred early in the morning of April 21. The apartment building was fully engulfed in flames. Wuneburger and his fellow firefighters from S.A.F.D’s engine 39 and 40 were on the other side, when desperate parents trapped on a second-floor balcony, made a 15-foot drop of faith.
"The father had decided it would be better to lower his daughter down to one of our guys because it was real hot and smoky up there," says Firefighter Josh Downes.
"You could see the desperation in his face, I lined up with him under the baby, it was kind of a 1, 2, 3 kind of thing, he dropped the baby, I caught the baby, I looked over the baby, she was OK," Wuneburger said.
"Not that often we get to do a real save like that, so it was a pretty cool thing," Josh Downes said.
Downes and the rest of the crew would rescue the parents and spend the next four hours fighting the fire, only later did it sink in what they had done.
"It hits home because I have two kids of my own, and uh, I just hope if any firefighter were there, he would have done the same thing," Wuneburger said.
"We do take it personal. It is very emotional, and the guys felt that," S.A.F.D. Battalion Chief Steve Reuthinger said.
It was a catch Wuneburger would make with 50 extra pounds of equipment on, an air tank, a jacket and helmet. It’s what made this catch “once in a lifetime.” After the fire, the firefighters and their family collected clothes, toys and money for the family that lost almost everything, and in that moment the man who made the precious catch, realized he's also made a lifetime connection.
"When we went over there the mom and dad let me hold the baby for quite a while, you know, I got to rub her little head and just get that connection … this one was real," Wuneburger said.
The parents did not want to be interviewed, but did let KSAT use the picture of their meeting. Wuneburger and his fellow firefighters hope to stay in touch with the family and the little girl, in a profession where all the rescues don't always turn out like they hope, this rescue is one they will never forget.