A School 18 teacher and a teacher’s aide roused a woman with her baby, getting them safely out of the house next door to a vacant Fargo Avenue home that went up in flames Monday on the West Side.
Gregory Genco, who teaches English as a second language, and Somali-speaking aide Ahmed Osman were working the kindergarten room in School 18 on West Avenue at Hampshire Street when they became alarmed.
The house at 558 Fargo Ave. had caught fire and become fully engulfed at about 11 a.m. But Genco and Osman did not know that, at first.
“I thought maybe it was a computer or something in the classroom,” Genco said of the smoky smell.
Then he looked out of the window.
“I saw smoke in the playground ... and then I saw the house on fire,” said Genco, who went outside and called 911.
Meanwhile, Osman grew concerned because he has ties with one of the families living at 556 Fargo, which he thought was on fire.
“He knew the mother that lived in the downstairs apartment because apparently they are from the same tribe,” said School 18 Principal Valerie Kent. “So he went over because he thought it was her house.”
But it turned out that the green and white house that the woman lives in is next door to the vacant, two-story house at 558 that went up in flames, Kent said.
After hanging up from the 911 call, Genco said, he and Osman “went to the house and knocked on the door, and the woman opened the door.” She had her baby with her, he added.
Genco and Osman escorted the woman and child safely out of the building, Kent said.
Osman went back to the same house and banged on the door of the second-floor apartment, but no one answered.
About that same time, a city housing inspector was coming down the street and helped alert a Burmese man and a child in that apartment, who also got out safely.
One of the engineers at the school, Terry Parsons, also helped escort the Burmese family out, Genco said.