Heroism & Heartbreak: One Year Later - NBC Chicago

Heroism & Heartbreak: One Year Later

One man is accused of starting the fire that almost killed his son. Another man is honored for saving the boy.



    Heroism & Heartbreak: One Year Later

    One man is accused of starting the fire that almost killed his son. Another man is honored for saving the boy. (Published Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010)

    When you meet Kevin Hartmann, he comes off as modest and soft-spoken. But there's nothing soft about what he accomplished a year ago Friday.

    Hartmann, a firefighter in the city of Elgin, responded to a 911 call of a house fire in a bedroom and a basement. His crew got there just in time.

    "I knew there was a baby inside. And a baby is helpless and couldn’t get out on its own. So, I went in to see if I could find the baby real quick," he said.

    It was a risky move. Firefighters are trained to stick together. But his partner was sizing up the perimeter of the house. So, Hartmann raced in anyway.

    “I saw a high chair. And then in the high chair was the baby... The smoke was banking down to the baby’s head," he recalled.

    Without any hesitation, Hartmann said he scooped up the 2-year-old boy and brought him outside to waiting paramedics. It's pretty seldom that you'll see videotape of such a rescue, but a local resident got the shot of Hartmann bringing the toddler to safety.

    "It's something I'll probably remember my whole life and hopefully, I can show the kids the video one day," Hartmann, 34, recalled as he reflected on the first "live-save" of his six-year firefighting career. "It sticks with you a little bit."

    For Terry Beavers, however, Nov. 19, 2009 gnaws at her almost every day.

    "I raised all my children here. All my memories are here," she said.

    Insurance covered most of what she lost. And she moved back into her rehabbed home in June. But as much as she tries to move on, she said she just can't shake that day and the fact that her son faces a lengthy prison sentence because of it.

    Investigators say James Beavers tried to block their rescue after starting the fire with "an open flame source." They’ve charged him with two counts of aggravated fire, two counts of arson, two counts of obstructing a firefighter and resisting a police officer.

    Terry Beavers says her son is guilty of careless smoking but not arson.

    "His children are his life and I believe it’s his children that give him the strength to pay the price for being careless," she said.

    It's only after the fire that Hartmann found out about Beavers' arrest.

    He had raced back inside and into the flames to try and see if anyone else was trapped.

    "I’m just your basic local fireman. I did what I did that day, just like any other one would," said Hartmann.

    “Kevin downplays it. A lot of guys downplay it. But they’re trained to do extraordinary deeds," said Elgin Battalion Chief Terry Bruce who was the supervisor on scene at this fire.

    "They don't consider themselves heroes. But they do perform in a heroic manner," he said.

    While speaking with Terry Beavers, she makes a point of pressing her son's innocence. She wants you to know she thinks he should be playing with his son, Braden, now three years old. But Beavers is now locked up in the Kane County Jail, where he awaits a pre-trial hearing in January. So, it's grandma's job to play with Braden, as she did Thursday.

    She wanted to talk less about the dark twist to this story and focus more on the heroism of Hartmann that day.

    "There’s no doubt in my mind that he would have sacrificed his life to save this baby just because of the way the force he came in. He reminded me of a train coming head on. That there was nothing that was going to stop him," she said