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Heroic Uber Driver Stops to Rescue People From Fire

Fritz Sam ran into a burning building and still got his passenger to the airport on time

spinner image uber driver fritz sam stands in front of his vehicle
Matthew Salacuse

After seven years of driving an Uber, I thought I’d seen a lot, but this was new. It was a Wednesday morning last August, my second trip of the day, and I had picked up a young lady named Jemimah. She was heading to LaGuardia Airport. Driving through the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, I saw a brownstone with fire shooting out of the second-story window.

I turned to Jemimah and asked, “Can we stop and help?”

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She said, “Absolutely.”

When I pulled over, I was telling myself, You are not running in there. You’re a father of two wonderful girls. They need their dad around.

Then I heard someone say, “There’s still someone inside,” and instinct took over. I sprinted right in.

I was terrified. I knew that even a small fire can quickly grow out of control. I had a quick conversation with God. I was, like, Lord, you know why I’m in here. I’m only trying to help. If it’s not my time to go, would you mind looking out for me? It quelled that chatter about what can go wrong.

As I was running up the staircase, I ran into a gentleman, maybe mid-30s. I kind of grabbed him and said, “We got to go.” But he said, “No.” He was adamant.

So I let him go and continued up the staircase. On the second floor, a woman in her 50s was standing in front of an open door with heavy smoke pouring through it, looking kind of stunned. She told me that her air conditioner had caught on fire.

But this woman, she was not going to budge.

“You see that smoke?” I asked her. “That smoke’ll take you out.” She just stood there.

I had to let her know that the fire wasn’t her fault. “Things happen,” I said. “Don’t worry about the AC.” And then I said the thing that finally made her move. I told her, “If you’re not leaving, I’m not leaving.”

I put my hands out, and she grabbed them. Slowly, we started down the stairs. I was walking backward and talking to her the whole time. Her face never changed. We finally got to the bottom of the staircase, and I led her to the door.

Then I had to go back for the gentleman. I ran to the staircase and called out for him. When I heard him, kind of stumbling, I said, “Come on. We got to go.” I was trying to be pleasant but at the same time stern. Finally he agreed to leave the building.

I grabbed his arm, and we headed out the exit. That’s when a police officer and the first firefighter came in with a hose, and I knew my job was done. Jemimah and I got back into the car and headed toward the airport. And, thankfully, she made her flight. In all, we were only delayed by about 10 minutes. It’s amazing. For this to have worked out the way it did, Jemimah had to be the passenger. If she had said, “No, don’t stop. I’m catching a flight. Can we just call 911?” I wouldn’t have felt bad or guilty about doing that. But she was, like, “No, let’s go.” So it had to be her.

Uber gave me an award for what happened that day, but, really, this shouldn’t be a big deal. I believe we are all spirit. If we’re all spirit, then we’re all family. So I was in there helping family.

Driver Fritz Sam, 55, lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.

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