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'Everything happens for a reason:' Mesa man honored for saving kids from a burning apartment

Man rescues kids from fire.jpeg
Posted at 10:17 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 08:57:24-04

MESA, AZ — A Mesa native who saved the lives of two children and a dog in a burning apartment complex shares what led him to risk his own life to save another.

Mesa Police Department's body camera video from Feb. 18 made national headlines. The video starts with an officer responding to a residential fire at 11:30 a.m. The officer asks who’s inside and someone at the complex shouts back, “Kids!” The officer runs around the complex to the back. Without hesitation, the officer uses a rock to break the window.

Around the same time, Jonathon Baez and his cousin Manuel Montes were on the other side.

“We tried to get in through the front door, but it was really black smoke,” Jonathon said. On Monday, he was recognized by Mesa officials — all who wanted to shake the hand of a hero.

Jonathan explained, if a few things were different, he wouldn’t have ever been at the fire that day. The 25-year-old said his job as a painter was canceled so he was given the day off. He and his cousin went to a car wash near US 60 and Gilbert Road. He said while standing in line, a woman asked, “what do you think is going on over there?”

Just hearing that, Jonathan and Manuel didn’t wait another moment.

"Everything happens for a reason, that's what I think,” said Jonathon.

The body camera video shows an officer asking for a ladder. Seconds later, Jonathon jumps a six-foot fence. He stands on a shed and grabs a broken window with his bare hands to rip it off.

“I think it was adrenaline, I was surprised to see myself. I was like, ‘whoa,’” he said.

With dark smoke billowing out of the room, Jonathon pulls the first child out to safety.

While another officer seeks a medic for the young girl in a diaper, Jonathon goes inside the apartment looking for another girl he said was about 6 years old and a dog.

While watching the video back on Monday at Mesa police headquarters, Jonathon said after he saved the first girl, who was around 2 years old, he told police he feared he may have hurt her because he had glass in his hand.

Police said both children involved are OK,

"People act differently when things happen, I didn't even expect to act like that myself,” he said with his eyes locked on the playback of the police body camera video.

Almost a month since that day, Mesa Fire Department says the cause of the fire is still unclear.

“When I heard the kids, I definitely thought about my daughter. I would rather burn myself than just stand there and watch them burn,” Jonathon said.

He says he has plans to meet with the family in that apartment soon and give those girls a hug.