An off-duty firefighter got down on his hands and knees to save a man and a woman after their house caught fire near Frenchmen and Burgundy streets early Saturday morning — and then he apologized for waking them up.
Eighth Ward native Roddrick Harrison was walking up Frenchmen Street to his mother’s business, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, about 2:20 a.m. when he saw flames licking from a roof.
At first Harrison thought the popular dive bar The John was on fire. He called in a report to fire dispatchers. Then he realized it was actually a house behind the bar, and a woman told him her daughter was inside.
Harrison was wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, but he didn’t hesitate.
“I just went in,” he said.
When he got to the second floor, the smoke was so thick that he had to go down to his hands and knees. He crawled through the house to the bedroom and woke a startled, disoriented couple still in their bed.
“I woke them up, and they were kind of out of it a little,” he said.
The man was so disoriented that Harrison had to grab him and pull him down the stairs to safety. The woman fled the house so quickly that she was wearing what Harrison remembered as a bedsheet on the street. Another man on the scene started to rush into the house to try to get her some proper clothes, but Harrison stopped him to prevent him from injuring himself.
The firefighter then stuck around and helped the crew of Engine 27 hook up their hoses to a hydrant. Seven companies took roughly a half hour to bring the fire under control. The Fire Department said its cause is still under investigation.
After the man and woman reached safety, Harrison went over to the pair to apologize for disturbing them in the middle of the night. Harrison said the woman’s mother stepped back in to tell him, “You don’t have to apologize. I’m glad you did what you did.”
The firefighter’s skills extend beyond battling blazes. He is also a lawyer, having graduated from the Loyola University College of Law last summer. He juggles his day job with work as a clerk for Civil District Court Judge Regina Woods. Just hours before saving two people’s lives, he had finished a shift in her office.
The last time Harrison was forced to jump into off-duty action, he said, was while he was studying for the bar in a law library. An air conditioning unit caught on fire, someone pulled an alarm, and Harrison swung into action with a fire extinguisher.
Asked whether a 28-year-old, lifesaving, firefighting lawyer could be considered ambitious, Harrison had a one-word answer: “Absolutely.”