Reporting Peter D’Oench
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some of the Miami-Dade Firefighter paramedics and emergency medical technicians who saved the lives of two children who were trapped inside a burning home in Cutler Bay are speaking out, saying they feel “lucky” and “blessed” to be able to help those who need to be rescued.
“We’re all so lucky, so lucky,” said Firefighter-EMT Nathan Watarz, who was one of the first emergency responders on the scene Wednesday at the home on Martinique Drive.
In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Watarz said, “This is what we do. It’s our job. We look at it as a job but deep down, if you have the time to think about it, it really is heartwarming. It makes you feel good that this is the profession that we’ve been blessed to take part in, that we can change peoples’ lives like this.”
D’Oench caught up with a half dozen of the more than 20 firefighters who responded to the home as they were visiting the two children in their hospital rooms at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The children—a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy—were unconscious and unresponsive when firefighters arrived at the scene and had to be revived before they were airlifted to the hospital.
Police say the 6-year-old girl is in very serious condition. Because of the pending criminal case, the firefighters were not allowed to talk about the children’s condition or the case itself.
But they were allowed to talk about their lifetime passion: saving lives.
“I think that’s part of the calling of the job,” said Watarz. “We are trained to do something. We are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do it and make a difference in peoples’ lives. I mean I don’t think I could do this job without wanting to do this for someone.”
Captain Eddy Alarcon, who has 16 years experience, told D’Oench, “I did and my crew did exactly what anybody in our position would have done. And that’s our job. We had to do it. We are glad we did it and happy we could help.”
“My position is that any one of these guys could have done the same thing,” said Alarcon. “They have done it and will continue to do it again.”
“There’s no other feeling like that. It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” said Alarcon. “It’s the greatest feeling to know that you were there and you were able to do something for somebody and because of what you did, they are still alive today.”
Firefighter-Paramedic, Lt. Jonathan Witt said, “I feel great that the training you receive means you can actually put it all together as a team and it works out for the better.”
“Your heart does seem to race a little more and the adrenalin starts going a little bit more when you hear there may be children involved,” Witt said.
Luis Sierra, a Firefighter-Paramedic with 16 years experience, said, “It’s a great feeling when you can give somebody a second chance for sure. It makes everything Worthwhile when our training and everything comes together. It worked our perfectly. We’re very proud of what we do. I’m just happy with the outcome.”
The 31-year-old caretaker who Miami-Dade Police say left the children home alone before the fire—Andrew Sepulveda—came before a Judge in bond court.
Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat told Sepulveda “You’re being charged with two counts of child neglect with great bodily harm.”
The Judge was told that the standard bond in such cases is $7500 per count. The judge raised the bond to $12,500 a count, meaning that total bond for Sepulveda is $25,000.
According to an arrest affidavit, Sepulveda locked the children in the home and went out to a store. When he returned, the home was engulfed in flames.
Police say he was taking care of the children for their mother, who was at work.
The children’s uncle, Moreese Moise, said, “The kids weren’t supposed to be home alone. As I know, myself, the kids, she pays for this dude to watch them. I don’t know what happened. The dude was supposed to be there with the kids. He has kids too.”
Police say Sepulveda admitted he left the children to go to grocery store.
Moise told CBS4 News the children were doing better by Wednesday night. They did not suffer any burns.
“Things happen,” he said. “I hope they are ok. I pray and hope they are OK.”