DeKalb fireman feels ‘blessed’ to catch baby from burning building


The first thing you notice about Robert Sutton, the 31-year-old DeKalb County firefighter of 10 years, is humility. 

Anybody would’ve done what I did, he assures.

I got lucky.

Really, I was blessed.

But it’s hard to know what to say now, after his work to save a baby from a burning Glenwood Road apartment made local news, then national, then international.

“It feels like I’m a celebrity or something,” he said, chuckling as his mind reeled between 911 calls Friday.

Sutton, who works 24-hour shifts at the fire department and then heads to a side job, was filling in for another firefighter Tuesday when dispatch radioed.

The Parc at Glenwood was burning.

Approaching the scene, the crew saw a column of smoke rising from the complex, which isn’t far from where Sutton grew up and where his dad still lives.

“We have a working incident,” the radio said.

That’s bad. It means the fire is serious, perilous, and the crew needs to be ready to go inside.

Sutton started to suit up. 

But then he saw a screen fall from a window and heard a frantic man.

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“I got a baby, I got a baby!” the father screamed, his voice raspy from inhaling smoke. 

Sutton had never seen anything quite like it. When training firefighters, DeKalb County doesn’t drop fake babies from fake fires or otherwise teach such catches.

But the man was dangling the child, who the fire department said was about 6 months old, desperate to get her out safely.

Sutton started to run toward the building.

He yelled for the man to drop the child.

And the man did.

Sutton caught her, passed her to the medical unit to be checked out and then hurried back to help the father climb down a ladder. 

Gratitude swelled in Sutton.

He felt blessed — he uses this word repeatedly when telling the story — to be there to save the child.

He went up to the father and shook his hand.

After getting the fire taken care of, the crews left and prepared for the next calls. 

Sutton got off Wednesday morning and headed to his second job at an ambulance service in Snellville. He told his wife, Martika, what happened with the baby, but he didn’t dwell on it. 

Soon, he got a call from a higher-up at the fire department saying a local TV news station wanted to talk.

Sutton did the interview and told Martika he “might” be on the news. He asked her to tape it just in case while he went back to work on the ambulance. 

After 5 p.m., he got a phone call from home “with lots of screaming.”

The couple’s boys, Robert, 6, and Jeremiah, 3, told their friends at baseball practice that Dad was on the news.

The story got picked up by more outlets until, Friday morning, one of his fellow firefighters called him over to look at a TV at the firehouse. 

Sutton was on “Good Morning America.”

Then he heard he was on TV in England.

“He deserves all the accolades,” Capt. Eric Jackson, fire department spokesman, said. “We are thrilled.”

After the surprise of national and international praise dwindled, Sutton went back to work Friday.

He held firm to his humility, praising co-workers and department leaders, and expressing gratitude for being “in the right place at the right time.”

Blessed. Blessed. Blessed.

“If I could save a baby everyday,” he said, “I would.” 

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