Off-Duty Bloomington Firefighter Saves Neighbors from House Fire

(BLOOMINGTON) – An off-duty Bloomington firefighter is being credited with saving the lives of two neighbors in a structure fire that occurred just early Wednesday morning.

Bloomington Firefighter First Class Gregory Bare was at home getting ready to go to bed when he noticed his neighbor’s house was on fire.  Even though he was off duty and he did not have access to his protective clothing or equipment, Bare leapt into action.

After reporting the fire to 911 operators, he ran over to find his neighbor struggling to get out of her window. Removing the screen and helping her escape, Bare learned that an additional resident remained inside. With the front of the home burning, Bare entered through the rear where there was no smoke or fire. He then woke up the sleeping housemate, and escorted him out of the home to safety.  

As the on-duty crews from the Bloomington Fire Department (BFD) arrived, less than two minutes after being dispatched, Bare stayed on scene to help connect the supply line to the hydrant. 

Several firefighters called to the scene credited Bare with saving the two residents.

After review, Bare’s action will likely be recognized at the BFD’s annual awards banquet in February.   

“We are proud of our firefighters and the job they do every day,” said Bloomington Fire Chief Jason Moore. “The off-duty actions of Firefighter Bare go beyond normal expectations and highlight the professionalism, courage, and excellence we strive for at the Bloomington Fire Department.”  

While on-duty firefighters are legally bound to assist in extinguishing fires and saving lives and property, this legal obligation does not apply when they are off duty.  Nonetheless, firefighters are encouraged to take appropriate and calculated risks whether or not on duty. 

Firefighter Bare joined the BFD in February of 2017 and is assigned to Engine 1 on Red Shift.  When questioned about the incident Bare stated, “I am just glad I was there.” Including this incident, BFD has saved nine residents from fire conditions since 2017.  

Although the front porch and one room of the house were badly damaged, the structure was saved.  The cause of the fire has been deemed accidental. 

“We are deeply grateful to our top-rated Bloomington Fire Department for their vigilant protection of life and property year-round,” said Mayor John Hamilton.  “We are especially proud of Firefighter Bare for going above and beyond his responsibilities in saving his neighbors, and are exploring ways to encourage more of our public safety professionals to live in this community they serve.”

According to BFD Fire Prevention Officer Tom Figolah, a working smoke alarm woke one of the residents from her sleep.  The BFD reminds residents not to tamper with smoke alarms, to check smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button, and to change the battery twice a year before the low battery warning chirp.    

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, including the basement, and installed inside of every bedroom and outside of each sleeping area.  Contact your local fire department regarding installation of smoke alarms.     

The two common denominators to fire fatalities in Bloomington in the past twenty years have been no working smoke alarms in the home and/or sleeping with an open bedroom door.  A closed door separates and protects you from smoke, deadly gasses, and fire. Close Before You Doze is a national campaign to encourage everyone to sleep with their bedroom doors closed.