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‘Risked his life’: Man called a hero after saving baby from burning Cleveland home

Story at a glance


  • John Stickovich, 62, was on his way to work and saw smoke pouring from a two story house.

  • “The mother was sitting on the … lawn with her one baby and I asked her if she was all right and she said, ‘My baby is still in the house,’ and I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God, I have to save the baby.’”

  • Firefighters are convinced that if Stickovich had not acted quickly as he did, the child would have perished in the smoke and flames. 

CLEVELAND (WJW) — A Cleveland man is being hailed a hero after rescuing an 11-month-old baby who was trapped inside a burning house Monday morning.

The good Samaritan was able to find the child in the smoke and flames on his third attempt. 

John Stickovich, 62, was on his way to work and saw smoke pouring from the two story house. Firefighters had not yet arrived, so he decided to stop and see if he could help.

“The mother was sitting on the … lawn with her one baby and I asked her if she was all right and she said, ‘My baby is still in the house,’ and I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God, I have to save the baby.’ That’s how it was going to be,” Stickovich told Nexstar’s WJW. 

Stickovich immediately ran to the side door of the house and kicked it in, but the smoke and flames were too heavy, so he went to the back of the house and crawled through an open door to the kitchen. He still could not find the child.

“I came back out and asked her where the baby was. She told me, ‘Next to the kitchen by the baby gate,’” he said.

John Stickovich was headed to work on Monday morning when he saw a home on fire. (WJW)

Without hesitating, Stickovich ran back into the house, crawled under the smoke, and felt around until he reached the childproof gate — but there still was no sign of the child.

“It was getting so bad in there, I was getting ready to leave actually and then the baby cried or made a sound, so I’m thinking to myself, ‘The baby is right here,’ so I just lurched forward and my arm went across his leg. I grabbed him by the leg, [pulled] and then we were both out.” 

Firefighters are convinced that if Stickovich had not acted quickly as he did, the child would have perished in the smoke and flames. 

“He risked his life to bring that baby out, he did an amazing job this morning,” said CFD spokesman Lt. Mike Norman.

The situation inside the burning house was so dangerous that two firefighters were injured battling the blaze. One of them was trapped under debris after the front porch collapsed. Thankfully, he was rescued by his co-workers.

“They called a mayday on the radio. Whenever we have a mayday, it’s something that we practice for, we a have a rapid intervention team that stands ready to rescue a firefighter in that sort of an event, which they did this morning,” said Lt. Norman

Stickovich, who is retired from Laborers Union Local 310 and now runs his own repair business, said his only previous experience dealing with fires was while working on demolition projects. He said his actions on Monday were the result of raw instincts and determination.

“I feel wonderful that I could save the baby. That mother doesn’t have to mourn her baby. That baby gets to live today,” he said. “Everybody is just calling and saying how great of a job it was, but I mean, I would do it for anybody, it doesn’t matter. And I would hope that somebody would do it for me.”

Stickovich was evaluated by doctors at MetroHealth Medical Center and allowed to go home. No information has been provided about the members of the young family who escaped the fire. Investigators say it appears the blaze was accidental, and caused by an electrical malfunction.

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