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Mother recounts dramatic story of rescue from burning building

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 16. 2012 1:43PM
Abigail Starin wipes a tear away after visiting her burned out apartment with her boyfriend Ryan Gingras. Starin was rescued from the Eastern Avenue fire early on Thursday morning. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Abigail Starin, holding onto her infant son in his car carrier seat, was near panic early Thursday morning when a firefighter on a ladder told her to pass the baby over the balcony to him.

Flames were shooting through the roof above her and her fiance, Ryan Gingras, their baby, Ryker, their two dogs and ferret, as they stood on their balcony awaiting rescue.

'I have him,' Starin said the firefighter kept telling her. 'Let go. I'll bring him down.'

Starin, 29, said she was near panic. 'It was so hard to pass him over the balcony, to give him to the firefighter.'

But she did, and then she was helped down the ladder followed by her fiancee, Ryan Gingras, who had thought to put a blanket over their baby's face, to prevent him from inhaling the heavy smoke.

Starin and Ryker were taken to Catholic Medical Center to be checked out. The baby was fine while Starin was treated for mild smoke inhalation and then released.

Later, when all the residents were safely evacuated from 90/92 Eastern Ave. at Deerhaven Preserve Condominiums, firefighters went back to their unit and got the couple's dogs and ferret.

It was a harrowing time for the young family. Starin, a nurse who works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at New Hampshire Hospital, had returned home Wednesday night, watched a little TV and dozed off on the couch.

About 1 a.m. she woke to 'very, very loud' fire alarms going off in the building.

She and Gingras quickly got Ryker and put him in his car-carrying seat and leashed up the dogs and ferret, and headed out the door. The hallway was so full of smoke, she said, there was no way they could get out. Neighbors across the hall from them had already made it out and they could see flames in that unit.

They shut their door and headed to the deck. Starin said they could hear and see the fire trucks in the distance. People, on the ground, flagged down the firefighters and directed them to the trapped family.

By then, flames were streaming 50 feet into the air from the roof and ash was sprinkling down on top of them. It was then, Starin said, they realized how bad the fire was.

'That's when I started to panic,' she said. 'The fire trucks seemed so far away even though they weren't.'

And then a ladder was against the building and a firefighter was at the top, telling her to pass the baby over the balcony to him.

'The firefighters did a great job. They were so quick. They came up super-quick and got Ryker and then I went down and Ryan got down. Then they had to get all the other people. Once they got everybody out, they were able to get our dogs and ferret.'

Starin doesn't remember the name of the firefighter who rescued them but said he checked on her and the baby before the ambulance left the scene.

'He was so brave. He was so calm and he kept me so calm. He did a great job. They all did,' she said.

Fires General News Manchester

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