First Responders are trained to keep their cool even when facing the most terrifying and dangerous of situations. Their fight-or-flight response may kick in, but they choose to fight every time in order to save the lives of those who depend on them.
In 2018, when a blazing fire began consuming a Texas apartment building, it was not the fire department that arrived on the scene, but ill-equipped police. There was no time to wait for the fire experts, however, especially not after officers learned a key detail about one apartment’s residents…
Eight-year-old Kingston Sowel and his mother Keisha were inside their home at the Glenshire Villas Apartments in Balch Springs, Texas. It was still dark that early Monday morning, and the two were just about to get up to get ready for school and work.
At around 6:30 am, however, the Sowels noticed a strange smell inside their apartment, and Keisha instantly realized what it was: smoke. There was a fire inside their building, but no one knew how big it was, where it was located, or how they should exit!
Several people called 9-1-1 right away and emergency services arrived at the scene shortly. But before the fire department could get there, only a police squad of three cops arrived: officers Cory Jones, David Fields, and Tyler Gross.
Thankfully, these officers were trained to handle this type of situation and were ready to jump in and save whoever they could. Their body camera recordings showed them rushing around the building, knocking on doors to wake up any residents.
The team divided up, with officer Tyler Gross assigned to the second story of the building, where Keisha and Kingston lived. At first, his rescue mission seemed to be going well — until he was suddenly pushed back by heat, flames, smoke, and falling debris.
Even without the fire department, he persisted. “I didn’t even think twice. I just went up the stairs,” said officer Gross. “I attempted to find the front door, to the apartment, but I couldn’t see it because the smoke was so black.”
His fellow policemen had just finished covering their designated areas when they realized that the Sowels were still in their apartment. Assuming officer Gross couldn’t get to them, they began yelling at the window to get the family’s attention.
However, it wasn’t all that easy. When the two officers on the ground pleaded Keisha to opened the window, she gestured that she couldn’t. “Step back!” officer Fields shouted. Keisha and Kingston moved away from the window, and officer Jones threw his baton through it.
The glass shattered, and once Keisha had kicked out the final pieces, the police officers began coaxing Kingston to jump. Naturally, he was terrified. They were only one story up, but it still felt incredibly high. His heart was pounding.
When Kingston finally took the leap, he landed safely into the arms of the cops. “It was only seconds,” said Officer David Field. “but it felt like hours because once again you’re looking at their faces and they’re fearful. I’m fearful for them. It was hard,”
Still, Keisha Sowell was still up in her apartment, which was rapidly filling with smoke. She watched her son make it to safety, but she couldn’t make herself take the massive leap.
She was not as light as her son, and she was skeptical as to whether the policeman would be able to catch her, but time was of the essence. “I want my mom,” Kingston cried.
Just then, a firetruck finally arrived! Right away, a few men went into the building to save officer Gross, while the others raised their ladder to the window and rescued Keisha, who was thrilled to be back on the ground holding her child safely in her arms.
While the Sowels hugged and the policemen briefed the firefighting squad, there was little that could still be done for some of the homes inside the building. The police cam showed that at least 3 of the units were completely destroyed by the fire.
“I’m grateful. I don’t even know how to put into words,” Sowel said. “I just thank God that they took the time to do what they were called to do as officers and as firefighters. I really appreciate it and I am totally grateful. I thank them because Kingston is all I have. He’s all I have.”
Three days later, the Sowels reunited with the first responders at a news conference where the officers were honored for risking their lives and thinking on their feet.
“These officers’ dedication as servants to the citizens of Balch Springs is on display each and every day that they put on their uniform,” said Deputy Chief Brent Hurley with The Balch Springs Police Department.
“If y’all wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here,” Kingston told officer David Fields in a reunion that aired on Good Morning America. “I’m glad we could be there for you Kingston, and we’ll always be there for you,” Fields replied. “It took a lot of bravery, jumping out of that window like you did.”
The cause of the fire is still unidentified, but there will certainly be some kind of an investigation into the cause, as well as the fire safety of the building.
Unfortunately, the Sowell’s apartment was one of the units that was heavily damaged during the blaze. Keisha does have insurance but will need some help from friends, family, and their community to get back on her feet. What matters most right now, however, is that they are both safe and sound.