Firefighter saves baby from burning building

By Astha Agarwal
Published: April 2011

When firefighter Nick McGrath left work on March 30, he never imagined that in the next few minutes he would break down two doors, put his life on the line, and rescue an entire family, including a one year-old infant, from a burning building.
Driving home, McGrath noticed a three-decker house on Auburndale Avenue engulfed in flames. A woman stood in front, screaming that a child was trapped upstairs. Wearing plain clothes, McGrath immediately broke down the door, ran upstairs, rescued the family on the second floor, and went on to the third floor to make sure no one had been left behind.
When McGrath arrived on the scene, the family om the second floor apartment was completely unaware that the building was on fire. Babar Shahza and his one year-old daughter, were taking a nap, while his wife, Zorah Bahtti, was about to take a shower.
McGrath banged on their door and not only convinced them that the house actually was on fire, but safely evacuated all three of them as well.
He guided Bahtti and her daughter down the stairs, and after the other firefighters arrived, walked away from the scene humbly without mentioning his heroic act to the other firefighters anything about.
“He’s very humble. He hasn’t said a whole lot. He’s a man of few words,” an official said about McGarth.
“The whole view was unbelievable,” Bahtti, after she left the building,
“I could never imagine that this was happening [outside],” she said.
“I heard the smashing of the door and a voice like, ‘Get out of the house! [The] house [is] on fire!’ And I was like what he’s talking about?” Shahza agreed.
But, according to Shahza, when he saw the curtains catching flame, he understood the grevity of the situation. The fire began on the first floor and quickly spread up the back of the building.
If not for McGrath, the family may not have evacuated in time. “I’m grateful to him. And I cannot thank him enough,” Shahza said. He said that he could not imagine a worse situation, one in which his wife or daughter could have been hurt.
At age 25 and the youngest firefighter in his station, McGrath managed to save the lives of Shahza, Bahtti, and their one year-old daughter.
Still, McGrath denies having done anything heroic.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said in an interview.
Ultimately, it took 45 firefighters from Newton and Waltham to put out the fire, and four of those firefighters were taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital with minor injuries, but were later released. The most serious injury, according to Newton Fire Chief Bruce Proia, was a broken thumb.
Proia praised McGrath, as well as the other firefighters, for their excellent response.
“These firefighters were fighting their way into the inferno,” he said.
Mayor Setti Warren honored McGrath with a Certificate of Appreciation as well.
“We’re so proud that he went above and beyond the call of duty,” Warren said in his speech, adding that McGrath’s actions are “part of the ethos of our firefighters here in Newton.”
Afterwards, Shahza and Bahtti returned to collect belongings which hadn’t been destroyed by the fire, managing to save some pictures of their daughter in a dresser drawer.
Although the actual cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, Newton Fire Deputy Chief Michael Castro said in an interview, that the probable cause of the fire is a lit cigarette.
Another fire on Waverly Avenue, which killed a Bunker Hill Community College professor and former WGBH producer, also began for the same reason.

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