Utica firefighters honored for saving life of 4-year-old girl

Fred DeCarlo carries a lifeless Halima Haji from the burning building

Seven Utica firefighters and one Utica Police officer were honored on Wednesday night for rescuing a four-year-old girl from a burning building on February 22nd.

Jeff Baranowski, Brian Bova, Jessica Caulkins, Fred DeCarlo, Captain Scott Ingersoll, Marc Manno and Lt. Dominick Meyers were awarded certificates for their roles in saving Halima Haji, who lived at Adrean Terrace in east Utica.

In this YouTube video, captured by witness Vasiliy Stadnick, firefighter Fred DeCarlo is seen carrying a limp and lifeless Haji out of the building.

"It happened so fast," DeCarlo says. "When I watched [the video], I don't remember half of it, everything crashes all in at once, you just do what you can do, what you're trained to do."

DeCarlo then handed Haji off to the paramedics team, and paramedic firefighter Brian Bova went to work, leading Haji's resuscitation. He says years of training and education made him successful in reviving her.

"Everybody develops their skills with time," Bova says. "As well as working on calls, doing these calls everyday and learning from them everyday."

Dozens clapped as the eight heroes received their certificates, but the best reward for the crew came from Haji herself, who was there with her family, just two weeks removed from the blaze. She shook the hands of her rescuers, and the moment took their breath away.

"It's awesome," DeCarlo says. "I mean I have a little girl at home, I can't describe it I guess."

The firefighters say they are not heroes, but were just doing their job, and what they have been trained to do. But, as Haji was raised up for the dozens in the room to see, each smiled, with the whole room knowing those eight played a major part in making that moment happen.