Janesville44.3°

Man rescues daughter from burning home

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Kevin Hoffman
August 9, 2011
— Time seemed to slow after Carlin Pillman woke late Saturday night to find flames and smoke billowing from his bathroom.

He ran outside and called 911, but there was a problem: His 15-month-old daughter was still inside.


Instead of waiting for firefighters to arrive at the home at N1489 Hillside Road in Lake Geneva, Pillman dropped the phone and grabbed a pickax.


After he smashed through a window and made his way into Haleigh's bedroom, he discovered the strangest thing.


His daughter still was asleep, unfazed by the commotion around her.


Pillman said he had to go outside and go back in through a window because flames had blocked the route to his daughter's bedroom.


"I was going to go to her room, but I was on one side of the house and she was on the other," Pillman said. "I didn't realize we had double-pane windows, and it took three hits (on the window) to get her out.


"It felt like an eternity, but it probably only took a few seconds."


Assistant Linn Fire Chief Grant Winger Jr. said the cause of the fire was electrical.


Pillman said he had just finished working on his company truck and put his daughter to sleep Saturday before he fell asleep on the couch.


Pillman, a certified firefighter and former firefighter at the Linn Fire Department, said he knew when he spotted flames that running directly to his daughter's bedroom could be a mistake.


Haleigh's bedroom door was closed, keeping out most of the smoke. Medical personnel examined her afterward and determined she didn't need to go to the hospital.


"She was blowing kisses to police officers and firefighters," Pillman said.


Winger said firefighters were almost on the scene when dispatchers told them the child was out of the house.


Pillman said most of the fire damage was restricted to the bathroom. The fire was hot enough to crack a porcelain sink, he said.


"I was in tears, and even though (Haleigh) was fine, the whole fact is your adrenaline goes from super high, to a reality check, then down," Pillman said. "My wife was more shaken up than I was at that time."


Pillman said he and his wife, Erin, had help Sunday cleaning damage inside the home after the family was displaced Saturday night.


Most of the damage was from smoke, and they've already moved back in. Haleigh is staying with grandparents until all the smoke damage is cleared.



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