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Aurora firefighter helps revive little girl’s spirit

5-year-old LuisMarabotti clutches three her favorite Barbie dolls Thursday December 6 2012 inside her Stonebridge home thwas damaged by chimney

5-year-old Luisa Marabotti clutches three of her favorite Barbie dolls on Thursday, December 6, 2012, inside of her Stonebridge home that was damaged by a chimney fire that caused $150,000. Aurora Fire Battalion Chief Ed Oros (left) was able to make a speical trip into the house after the fire to recover Luisa's dolls. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 8, 2012 7:48PM

AURORA — Through the flames of her home, a 5-year-old girl received an early Christmas present from an Aurora firefighter — her rescued Barbie dolls.

Mother Chewon Lee noticed smoke early Saturday evening at her two-story home in the 2700 block of Hamman Way on Aurora’s far East Side.

“The house was in perfect condition but we could see smoke from the backside,” Lee said.

From outside the home, a small flame could be seen coming from the chimney.

“All of the neighborhood came out. I was panicked,” said Lee, a native of South Korea. “My English is not the greatest, so my neighbors helped me call 911.”

At 5:40 p.m. Saturday, the Fire Department received the call. By the time fire crews arrived, the blaze had spread from the chimney into the attic.

Lee, who was renting the home with her husband and daughter Luisa, waited at neighbor Cathy Towers’ home while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.

Aurora Fire Battalion Chief Ed Oros tried to be reassuring, Lee said. Oros told the family that 20 mph winds were fueling the flames across the house, charring the attic’s rafters. The fire caused about $150,000 in damage to the home.

And 5-year-old Luisa was very confused.

“She was asking me, ‘What about my dolls?’” Lee said.

When Oros told the family they wouldn’t be able to re-enter the home, he could tell little Luisa was upset.

“She was looking for her Barbies, so I told her I would bring them if I could,” said Oros, 52, a 29-year-veteran of the Aurora force.

So while crews were still putting out small spot fires, Oros went back into the charred house to gather Luisa’s pink crate of Barbies on the home’s second floor.

The Barbies smelled of smoke and were wet from water used to put out the fire, but Luisa was thrilled, neighbor Towers said. Oros — who has a 12-year-old daughter and a grown son — also retrieved Luisa’s prized princess costumes.

“(The) little girl’s eyes got as big as saucers when he brought them in,” neighbor Towers said. “It was wonderful.”

Oros said there plenty of firefighters who have done “better stuff for fire victims.”

“I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this,” he said. “I saw her and she was such a cute, nice little girl, I wanted to do something to cheer her up a little bit. That’s all I did really.”

The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but Oros said the flue to the chimney was not open above the gas log fireplace. No one was injured, he said.

Oros, who grew up in Aurora but now lives in Geneva, said there isn’t a firefighter on the force who wouldn’t have done what he did. He said the firefighters putting out the flames deserve all of the credit.

Retrieving items special to a family is part of the job for firefighters, Oros said.

“It’s our job to save property, not just lives and the house,” Oros said.

He recalled a blaze where firefighters dug through two feet of debris to retrieve a family heirloom for a distraught granddaughter. Firefighters routinely throw tarps to keep furniture dry that families hope to save, he said.

It’s only natural to want to “lighten the grief” of those who have just lost a home, Oros said.

“You see the destruction in these houses, and your heart goes out to them. You want to make it better for them,” Oros said.

Luisa’s mom, though, thought Oros’ effort was extra special.

“Ed is an angel,” Lee said. “After the accident, I realize there are wonderful people all around us.”

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