By Nancy Fischer
The Buffalo News
MIDDLEPORT — As thick smoke poured from a burning, two-story apartment building, the Middleport police chief and a Niagara County sheriff's deputy rescued four children as their mother handed each child down to the law officers from a second-floor window Wednesday morning.
They saved the mother and her sister, too, by finding a ladder in a nearby yard and leaning it up to the window.
Middleport Police Chief John J. Swick said he and Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Shannon Rodgers were on State Street when the call came in at about 9:45 a.m. about the fire at 143 Telegraph Road.
"When we got there smoke was pouring out of an upstairs window," said Swick.
They quickly determined that one unit was unoccupied and seven residents in the other two apartments had escaped on their own.
But six people were trapped in the two-story fourth apartment where the fire started.
"I kicked in the door, and the smoke was thick," Swick said. "There was just no way you could get in. I looked at the floor, and you couldn't even crawl in. So the deputy and I went to the back, and a woman stuck her head out of the upstairs second-floor window."
She cried out: 'I've got my four kids and my sister in here.'"
The mother, identified as Jessi M. Evans, of that address, lowered the four children — an infant, a 2-year old, a 4-year old and a 7-year old — out of the window into his arms, Swick said.
"We got the four kids out," he said, "and the mother and sister were able to climb out onto the ... gabled roof and then shimmy over to where there was a one-story roof."
Evans and her sister, Shayla Evans, 19, of Lake Road, Barker, waited as Swick and Rodgers found a ladder in a nearby backyard and got them down, Swick said.
The rescued family was treated in Medina Memorial Medical Center for minor smoke inhalation. An adult male resident of the apartment had already left for work at the time of the fire, which is believed to have started in the first-floor kitchen.
The Red Cross was called to assist the 13 residents.
Damage was estimated at over a half-million dollars. Middleport Fire Chief Nicholas W. Boyle said the unit where the fire started was a total loss, and all four units appeared to have been damaged by the fire.
He said the fire was brought under control in about an hour and a half. Boyle said they were assisted at the scene by firefighters from Medina, Shelby, Gasport and Hartland, with Tri-Town Ambulance providing rescue service for the six victims.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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