IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Sometimes the job of saving lives doesn’t fit the job description. That was the case for the two Life EMS Ambulance Medics Thursday night.

“It was just that conscious decision that we both made … can we save a life? Can we make a difference? And we did,” said Life EMS Ambulance Emergency Medical Technician Nigel Heftye about the incident that had he and his partner, Life Paramedic Zack Jahnke, switching hats from medics to firefighters.

The pair were headed back to their Ionia Life EMS Ambulance base at around 11 p.m. Thursday when they heard the call.

A home on West Tuttle, southwest of the City of Ionia, was on fire. An 85-year-old occupant was in a bedroom on the second level and couldn’t get out.

“I recognized the address. We’d been there several times for emergency calls,” Jahnke said.

So, they headed to the house fire, arriving about the same time as an Ionia Public Safety officer but before the fire department. The Ionia officer head towards the flames in the home’s basement with a fire extinguisher.

The fire wasn’t big, but it produced a lot of dangerous smoke.

While that smoke filled the home, the victim had two things going for her — both Jahnke and Heftye knew the layout of the home, and their second jobs are as firefighters in Lowell.

“It was just immediate. Our prior experiences, both of us are firefighters as well. We both knew exactly what was expected,” Heftye said.

What they didn’t have was the protective gear they wear as firefighters.

“The conditions we had when we got there … they were survivable. So, we do what we had to do to try to get her out to safety,” Jahnke said.

The pair rushed through the door.

“There was a big puff of smoke that came out from the front door. We held our breath, ran upstairs,” Jahnke said.

“It was dark. At one point, I knew we were going up the stairs but you couldn’t see in front of your face,” Heftye added.

They made it to the victim’s bedroom. Using a flexible tarp-like sling used to carry patients out of tight spots, they loaded her up and headed for the stairs.

“We couldn’t see much in front of us with all of the smoke. And we had to go down a flight of stairs to get her outside. The smoke was getting heavy at that point,” Jahnke said.

It was all about the minutes for the two lifesavers.

“Had she been up there for even two minutes longer, she very well could have not made it out alive,” Jahnke said.

Jahnke admits, hours later when the adrenaline wore off, second thoughts began to enter his mind. 
“I was questioning if we did the right thing or not, putting our lives at risk,” Jahnke said, thinking back to Thursday night’s rescue. “And I think back and … I’d do it again.”

The medics say the 85-year-old patient is doing fine.