PHILADELPHIA – The man who scaled a burning 19-story building in West Philadelphia last week wasn’t trying to escape the flames, as people initially assumed.
The man, identified only as Jermaine, was climbing to the 15th floor to save his bedridden mother. And he did it all with an injured hip.
CNN affiliate WPVI spoke with the hero, 35, who said he received a call from his sister Thursday night that their mother’s apartment building was on fire and she couldn’t get out.
Rushing to the scene, Jermaine said, he first tried to enter through the front door, but it was blocked by police.
“They said the elevators are not working,” he said. He told officers he could just take the stairs. “They were like, ‘we can’t let you in.’
“I took it upon myself because that’s my mother. There’s no limits. That’s my mother.”
He’d hurt his hip on some stairs earlier that day, Jermaine says, but adrenaline took over. He started climbing the fenced-in balconies of the building with wire cutters handy.
“When I grabbed a gate, at the top of the gate, there was a ledge. Then I could step on top of the ledge and reach up to the other gate and keep climbing my way up,” Jermaine said.
He said he was worried about his mother’s safety, not his.
“She can’t get out of the bed or walk around, so if there’s a fire, she needs help out,” he said.
Once he made it to his mother, she told him that she was OK and that the fire was contained.
“She was more shocked,” he said. “She’s not surprised by the things that I do for her. She knows I’ll go over and beyond for her.”
The fire was believed to have been started by a trash compactor, WPVI reported. Four people and three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation.
Jermaine climbed down just as easily as he went up. His progress down the building was captured on a video that was shared widely online Thursday.
He told WPVI that he thought he would be arrested as soon as he got down. A police officer told him that if he didn’t leave, he’d go to jail.
Reached for comment, the Philadelphia Police Department told CNN they didn’t have any details on the man “as there was no crime committed.”
“He actually did cut me a break,” Jermaine said. “He understood the circumstances. He knew — when your adrenaline is pumping and your mom is up there, you thinking she’s dying — you’d do anything you can.”