Monday, October 15, 2018
Public safety

He helped save a disabled man trapped in a burning house. Now, he is a letter-carrier hero

VALRICO ó Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night are supposed to keep U.S. Postal Service workers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Add fire to that list for Jason Moss, a letter carrier for the Sulphur Springs Post Office.

In June 2017, Moss helped Tampa police officers save a disabled man from a house fire along his route.

Moss required treatment in an emergency room for smoke inhalation, but was back at work the next morning.

"Everyone said I should take time off," said Moss, 32 of Valrico. "Nah. Thatís not how I roll. I love my job."

PREVIOUS: Tampa sergeant dons gas mask at fire scene and pushes man to safety through window

For his courage, Moss will be honored Wednesday in Washington, D.C., as one of two National Association of Letter Carriers Heroes of the Year.

Sharing the spotlight with Moss is another Florida letter carrier who performed a similar act of bravery.

John Sylvain of Fort Lauderdale battled heat and smoke to save a man from a burning home along his route. Sylvain is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Moss had no previous emergency training.

"People think Iím crazy," said Moss, a father of three and a letter carrier for 13 years. "I like to think people would do the same for my family."

His girlfriend Mary Peters said selflessness is one of Mossí qualities.

"Thatís who he is," Peters said. "He helps people. If he sees someone on the side of the road, he helps ó always."

An electrical malfunction, maybe in an air conditioning unit, was blamed in the fire that broke out at 7903 N. Greenwood Ave. around 1:20 p.m. on June 9, 2017, according to a Tampa Police Department incident report.

The mail boxes on Greenwood, a dead-end road, are across the street from the home, Moss said. As he was delivering his daily letters, he noticed black smoke billowing near the building.

He asked a man standing in front of the home if someone was burning tires. No, the man told Moss, the house was on fire and 68-year-old Terry Sims, who is disabled, was trapped in the front bedroom.

"I didnít really think," Moss said. "I just went to the front bedroom window and popped the screen out and went in but was overwhelmed with smoke. So, I came out. I tried a second time, but the smoke burned my eyes."

Tampa police officers Charnele Baker, Richard Caldwell and Peter Sierra then arrived, the incident report said.

One of the officers attempted to climb through the same window, but the smoke was still too thick. A back window closer to Sims was blocked by a bookshelf.

"We were going to put wet shirts around our faces and try that front window again," Moss said. "Then another officer showed up with a respirator."

Sgt. Larry Brass put on the gas mask, according to the report, and climbed through the front window into the bedroom.

Brass retrieved and handed Sims to Moss and the other officers, who were straddling the window. They carried Sims outside as Brass rescued a pit bull named Tank.

Moss and an officer then kicked out an air conditioning unit from another window to bring a second pit bull named Rosie to safety.

Tampa Fire Rescue had the fire under control within half an hour after authorities first arrived, according to the report. A fire investigator determined the home was a total loss and estimated damages at $325,000.

Moss said he still sees Simsí son Richard Sims on his postal route. The son has thanked him and said his father now lives in an assisted living facility.

The son could not be reached for comment.

"The whole thing still seams surreal," Moss said. "Maybe it will hit me when I get the award."

Still, he said heíll never quite understand how he managed to be in the right place at the right time. He was running a whole hour behind on his route that day.

"If I am on time, Iím not there," he said. "My girlfriend tells me that God puts people in spots for a reason. We just have to be ready for whatever happens."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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