Cannon Falls police chief helps rescue 3 children from apartment fire

The Cannon Falls police chief helped pull two children from a smokey apartment during a blaze that broke out in Cannon Falls on Wednesday.

In total, three children, an infant, a toddler, and a seven-year-old child, were pulled from the burning apartment unit with help from the chief, an ambulance crew, and firefighters. First responders were called out early Wednesday afternoon for the fire at the Cannon Valley Apartments off 1st Street North at Northgate Circle.

"The call came in as children inside the apartment and fire visible from the outside," recalled Cannon Falls Police Chief Jeff McCormick. 

Cannon Falls Police Chief Jeff McCormick and two ambulance crews were among the first on the scene Wednesday afternoon. At the apartments, the mother told the chief that three children were still inside the unit. The mother said she had tried to rescue the children but was unable to get to them, cutting her arm in the process.

"First thing going through my mind is ‘where are the children… are they going to be okay?’" said Chief McCormick.

The first responders went to the back of the apartment to see if they could spot the children. Using a fire extinguisher, the chief says they broke out the windows and climbed into the smoke-filled apartment unit.

The crews found two of the children, an infant and an older child, in the living room and were able to carry the children out from the fire. At that point, the chief says fire crews were on scene and continued the search for the third child, who was found a short time later.

"It's very hard in this line of work," the chief said. "We see a lot of things but children take a special place. When we found them and they weren't very responsive, your heart just drops. The good news is we've got fabulous paramedics, fabulous ambulance service, and I knew they were doing everything they possibly could for these children."

All three children were transported to the Cannon Falls hospital and later airlifted to another hospital in the metro. The mother was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The chief says the children suffered critical injuries while the mother's injury also appeared to be "pretty significant."

The three children have been stabilized and placed into a medically induced coma in the burn unit, authorities said in an update on Thursday. 

"We're not trained for it," said Chief McCormick. "But we also aren't very good at listening to the fire guys who say don't do it. So, the first thing that came to my mind was that we needed to at least try to see if we could find the kids."