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Firefighters rescue grandma, 3-year-old from Near West Side fire

Chicago firefighter/EMT Ben VillTruck Co. 7 rescued 3-year-old boy from an apartment building fire Sunday afternoon. 2300 block West Van

Chicago firefighter/EMT Ben Villa, Truck Co. 7, rescued a 3-year-old boy from an apartment building fire Sunday afternoon. in the 2300 block of West Van Buren in Chicago. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:18AM

Chicago Firefighter Benjamin Villa knew there was a young boy inside the blazing Near West Side apartment.

The boy’s grandmother, standing outside the seventh-floor apartment, told him she had run out and accidently locked the door — leaving her 3-year-old grandson inside on Sunday afternoon.

So firefighters broke down the door of the apartment in the 2300 block of West Van Buren, and Villa and his colleagues went into the dark, hot and smoke-filled home to search for the boy.

Villa couldn’t see, and he used his hands to feel for the boy — finally coming across him on the floor in a bedroom.

“I just grabbed him and yelled to my officer, “I got the child!’ ” he said.

Villa, carrying the limp and whimpering boy, ran down seven flights of stairs and through the parking lot to find the paramedics to save the boy’s life.

“The whole way down I’m yelling to the boy ‘Hold on!’ ” Villa said. “He was limp, but he was making sounds, so that motivated me to run faster.”

He handed the boy to paramedics Darvell Bowen and Phil Gines, who said the child was in bad shape.

“He wasn’t breathing,” Bowen said.

But as they began to resuscitate him, the little boy coughed a little and opened his eyes.

“I don’t think he knew what was going on,” Gines said.

Meanwhile, the grandmother, who had been taken out of the building by the firemen, returned to her apartment and collapsed during the rescue, Capt. Jerald Hunter said. The boy and his grandmother were taken to Stroger Hospital, authorities said. On Sunday evening, the boy was in critical condition, a hospital spokesman said, but he was expected to make a full recovery. His grandmother was expected to recover.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, Hunter said.

Back at the firehouse, at Leavitt and Madison, the crew still smelling of smoke, focused on the entire team’s effort.

“Just a job well done,” Hunter said.

Villa, who has teenage kids, said that was the first time he had rescued a child.

“It hits home. Hopefully, [the boy] makes a full recovery and that could be the best Christmas present anyone would ask for.”

Contributing: Sun-Times Media

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