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Neighbor saves mother, children from Roslindale fire with quick thinking and an old mattress

Clidfod Saintjen stands for a portrait with the fire damaged house next to his home in Roslindale neighborhood of Boston on Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

It was around midnight Friday and Dieula Lumac, 40, was getting ready to leave for her late-night shift at work when she heard children’s yells coming from her neighbor’s house on Delford Street in Roslindale.

“At first, I thought they were fighting,” she said, standing on her porch Saturday. But when she went outside, she saw that the house at 10-12 Delford St. was on fire and the children and their mother were trapped inside on the second floor, yelling for help.

“I was shaking,” Lumac said.

First, Lumac went back inside to wake up her own two children and get them out of the house, then she went looking for help. She found it in Clidfod Saintjen, another of her neighbors.


He was already outside when she emerged with her children.

Saintjen, a 42-year-old Uber driver, sprang into action as soon as he heard there was a fire. When he saw the family trapped by the flames on the second floor he remembered an old mattress he had leaned up against the fence that divides his and Lumac’s duplex from the house that was on fire.

Fire damage to the home on Delford Street in Roslindale neighborhood of Boston on Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

He grabbed it, pulled it under the window, and told the family to jump. At first they hesitated.

“I tell them ‘Don’t be scared. The fire, the fire will hurt you guys,’” Saintjen said Saturday.

The 5-year-old girl came out of the window first, right into Saintjen’s outstretched arms, he said.

“It was a big sigh [of relief],” he said.

Then the teenage boy jumped onto the mattress, followed by his mother.

The mother and the teen thanked him, Saintjen said, but the little girl was so shocked she did not say a word.

Unable to get back to sleep, Saintjen watched from across the street as firefighters arrived and worked to extinguish the blaze, which took quite some time, Saintjen said.


When the fire broke out at about 12:10 a.m., a total of nine residents, five adults and four children, were inside the building at 10-12 Delford St., according to Boston Fire Department spokesman Brian Alkins. Three alarms were ordered almost immediately, he said.

The fire was difficult to extinguish because there was already a “large volume” of flames and smoke when crews arrived. And Delford Street is a dead end, limiting the amount of equipment firefighters could bring down it, Alkins said.

The fire crews “maintained a heavy attack” outside and inside the building to contain the blaze and had it under control within 30 minutes, Alkins said.

Two firefighters suffered non-life-threatening musculoskeletal injuries, and have since been released from the hospital, he said. No other injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire, which resulted in an estimated $1 million in damages, is under investigation.

The Red Cross is helping the people who have been displaced by the fire.

Efforts to reach the displaced families were unsuccessful.

Saintjen said that though he was scared, he knew he had to do something.

“When that happens everyone is supposed to get scared, but when you see fire, people in the fire, you know what the fire means [for them],” he said. “I saved a life, but I don’t feel like a hero.”

Alexander Thompson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at