Fire crackled and sizzled nearby as police officers lifted Havelock firefighter Charlie Winter head first through a side window of a burning home Tuesday in search of a missing child.
“They said they could hear the baby in that window, so I went in that window,” Winter said.
Black smoke filled the small bedroom.
“It was just a black wall in front of my eyes” Winter said. “After doing the search, I could not find him. The officers outside said they could hear him in another room.”
As other firefighters tackled the flames, Winter negotiated his way into the adjacent room in his search for 2-year-old Dylan Burkett.
“I couldn’t see him. It was pitch black with smoke,” he said. “After going in the second bedroom I kept hearing a small cry, and every time I heard a cry, I went in that direction and found him.
“He was in a corner on a bed just sitting there. Once I could tell he was still crying, it was a good feeling, and once I got him outside, it felt pretty good.”
Winter handed the child to fellow fire fighter/paramedic Megan Lashway, who rushed the child to a waiting ambulance.
Winter said the little boy was too young to say anything.
“All he could do was cry, but I’ll take a cry. Crying’s good,” Winter said.
The fire erupted around noon at a home at 100 Pineview St., in Havelock, and quickly engulfed the single-story wood-frame house, thought to be about 70 years old.
The child’s father, William Burkett, had already pulled another son, Little Will, age 3, out of the house and had made several attempts to locate and save the younger sibling.
Neighbor Billy Smith heard the father screaming.
“I heard somebody holler and saw that guy holler, and I went out and saw fire at that there window,” Smith said. “I seen him laying on the ground kicking and screaming. He fell down by that old washer. I don’t know if he tried to get into the back door and it was locked or what.”
The whole front of the home was ablaze when the first fire crews arrived. Winter said he was directed to the side of the house where passersby had heard the child inside.
“We could hear the baby moving around in there,” said Virginia Harper, who saw the fire. “The father was trying to get the baby. There were two heavy-set men pulling toys and stuff out of the window trying to call him.”
Fire crews directed Winter to the side window.
“The police officers helped me jump into the window,” Winter said. “I couldn’t have gotten in there without the police officers’ help.”
After finding the child, Winter realized that two of his own fingers had been slightly burned in the rescue. He had run up to the house with just one protective fire glove.
“They told me to hurry up and find the kid and I don’t care about the glove,” Winter said.
Winter has been with the department for a decade and said he had never had a live rescue.
“That was the first time. Ten years. That was my first time like that,” he said.
Winter had a brief phone conversation with the rescued boy’s mother, Destiny Matson, at the scene of the fire.
“She was very, very happy, very thankful,” he said. “I told her she didn’t need to be, but she was very, very happy.”
Richard Matson Sr., grandfather of the children and Destiny’s father, said the family has been together for about seven years and has four children. He said he told his daughter that the house is gone but not to worry.
“Material things. Forget it. You’re all alive,” he said. “That’s what you should be thankful for.”
By Tuesday afternoon, the Red Cross was coming in to help the family with any immediate needs.
Dylan Burkett was transported initially to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern and then sent to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. He is believed to have had suffered smoke inhalation. A spokesman from Vidant Medical Center said Burkett was in fair condition Tuesday night.
Havelock, Cherry Point and Newport firefighters needed about 30 minutes to put out the fire, the cause of which is still under investigation.
“These guys did a great job,” Rick Zaccardelli, chief of the Havelock Fire and Rescue Department, said of the firefighters at the scene. “Everybody did a great job.”
As for Winter, Zaccardelli said he was proud.
“He didn’t hesitate. It just shows the commitment that he has to the community,” Zaccardelli said.
Grandfather Matson had another word.
“He’s a hero,” he said. “They’re all heroes.”