Dec 14, 2010 9:46 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Officer was determined to find child in burning home

Pueblo Police Officer Rich Romero was back at work Tuesday, one day after pulling a 3-year-old boy from a burning home. Romero tells News First 5 he was on another call at Parkview Hospital Monday afternoon when he checked his computer and saw there was a fire very close to where he was, so he decided to respond.

Romero went into the burning apartment and did a quick check for Josiah Mendoza, but had to leave to get some fresh air. He wrapped a sweater he found on the porch around his face and went back inside to look for the boy.

"It was black smoke. I couldn't see anything. It was really, really black. Black as night," recalls Romero.

He forced his way into the burning back bedroom where he found Josiah's grandmother searching for her grandson.

"I grabbed her by the arm and I said, 'Are you OK?' And she said, 'I can't find him. He's still in here. I can't breathe,'" remarks Romero.

Romero told her to leave, and he focused on finding Josiah.

"Throwing clothes around, boxes, anything that was in my way. I was trying to find this kid, and I could not find him," remembers Romero.

Then, he looked to the left.

"My flashlight kind of caught a glimpse of him. I ran over and grabbed him out of the closet," says Romero. "When I grabbed him, he was lifeless. I knew I didn't have much time. I knew I had to get him out as fast as I could."

Officer Romero says he never thought for a second about giving up.

"I'm a parent too, and I'm going to go in there and I'm going to look for this kid no matter what happens," says Romero.

He says he was probably in the house less than a minute.

"It seemed like an hour looking for that kid, especially with the smoke and it was real hard to breathe and it was one of those things, you can't give up, you gotta keep going," says Romero.

He found the boy, but the smoke was too much for Josiah's little body to take. Emergency crews rushed Josiah to the hospital, but he died.

The Pueblo Fire Department says Josiah was playing with matches and started the fire. The Pueblo County Coroner will conduct an autopsy Wednesday, but believes he died from smoke inhalation.



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