Dangling perilously from a helicopter cable, firefighter Mosely rescued Simms from the top of a 250-foot crane Monday as a fire below consumed an old, five-story building.
Mosely had to make the rescue from above because Simms, the crane's operator, was so high up. Wind and flames threatened to engulf the crane and take Simms with it for an hour until a special helicopter used to fight forest fires lowered Mosley through the inferno to the crane.
The flames were so hot, Mosely said, that there wasn't much time to strap Simms into a harness. As the two men were flown away from the fire and lowered by the helicopter to a grassy area, the crowds below cheered.
Mosely said he tried to joke with Simms during the stressful experience. "I told him his boss sent me up so he could knock off early," said the 30-year-old firefighter. "That helped lighten things up a little bit. He was pretty much calm."
Both Simms and Mosely appeared via remote cameras on CBS This Morning Tuesday. Simms told his rescuer, "Thank you, Matt, for your courage and coming to get me. I would like to meet you personally and congratulate you and thank you, too."
In an interview with CBS This Morning co-anchor Hattie Kauffman, Mosely explained, "When I was up there, I focused on what I could do, and I was glad to help him out of that situation."
What was Mosely thinking as he dangled high above the fire? "I hope the rope doesn't break. That was really the only thing I was worried about," he said. He told This Morning that he felt comfortable on the rope because he had had good emergency training.
Boyd Clines, the pilot of the state-owned helicopter, said the flight was very turbulent because of the flames and wind. He tried to work quickly because "the crane was on fire ... We didn't have all day to do it."
Clines said Mosely is "the real hero because he put his life on the line to hang below this helicopter and get the man off the crane. I'm just glad we made it in time."
Larry Rogers, who flew with Clines to guide the pilot and the cable, said the flames were intensely hot even in the helicopter. "We were 80 feet above the crane."
The fire below the crane.
The fire had engulfed an old mill that was being converted to loft apartments.
Simms had crawled to the end of the crane's horizontal arm to get away from the black smoke and flames rising from the large, brick building. He seemed calm and alert as he lay on his stomach waiting to be rescued, thcrane swaying in gusty winds.
Smoke and flame could be seen at the center of the crane, about 20 feet from where he was. The building collapsed as the blaze consumed it but the crane remained standing in the smoke that billowed from the rubble below.
About an hour before the rescue, firefighters made a desperate appeal for aircraft to try to pluck the man from the crane. At least one helicopter tried to swoop in earlier, but flew away when the flames became too intense.