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An Ohio man is being hailed as a hero after he rushed into a burning building to rescue an 11-month-old baby. Sixty-two-year-old John Stickovich was on his way to work when he saw a house filled with smoke. Firefighters had not yet arrived at the scene, so Stickovich jumped out of his car and found the baby’s mother, Samantha James, with one of her twins, screaming for help. “The mother was sitting on the tree lawn with her one baby and I asked her if she was all right and she said ‘my baby is still in the house’ and I was thinking to myself, ‘oh my God,’ I have to save the baby,’ that’s how it was going to be,” Stickovich told a local news station. James had noticed the smoke and grabbed one of her twins, Lotus, and quickly rushed the baby outside. However, when she returned to get the second baby, Opal, but couldn’t find her through the smoke. That’s when she went back out to look for help.

Stickovich was able to kick in the side door, but smoke and fire prevented him from entering. He then crawled through an open in the back of the house but was still unable to find the baby. After being told by James that the baby was in the kitchen by the baby gate, Stickovich entered the house a second time. “It was getting so bad in there, I was getting ready to leave actually and then the baby cried or made a sound, so I’m thinking to myself ‘the baby is right here,’ so I just lurched forward and my arm went across his leg. I grabbed him by the leg, [pulled] and then we were both out,” he recalled. Firefighters eventually arrived on scene and credit Stickovich with saving the baby’s life. “He risked his life to bring that baby out, he did an amazing job this morning,” said CFD spokesman Lt. Mike Norman at the time of the rescue. Three firefighters were injured while trying to put out the blaze, with Firefighter Pete Mauric being caught under a collapsing porch. Baby Opal had some burns and her mother and Lotus had inhaled some smoke, but all are expected to make a full recovery. Mauric has since been released from the hospital and shared that the story hits close to home. “These two are twins, I also have twin 15-month-olds, at home too so, I didn’t know it at the time when we were on the scene but in the hospital I did hear about it, that they were twins that got out, so it hit a little closer for me,” he said.

Stickovich was recently honored at a ceremony for his bravery, with James thanking God that he stopped. She tearfully recalled the moment when Stickovich appeared with Opal. “A couple of minutes later, he came out holding my baby, that I thought I was never going to see again. Those moments I was thinking to myself, how am I going to have just one twin?” she said. “I’m so grateful for John, he’s our guardian angel for sure, and for the firefighters.” Stickovich remained humble. “I’m sure God had something to do with it. I believe that 100%,” he said. “If I wasn’t guided while I was in that smoke, I would have never found her.” The family lost everything in the fire and a GoFundMe has been started to help them.

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