C. Columbus Croom helped to save Aaron, Wayne and Rodney Rice from burning, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 18, 1963. When fire broke out in a second-floor bedroom in a three-story dwelling in which the three brothers had been left, Wayne and Rodney fled to the third floor. Croom, 38, automotive serviceman, and Columbus L. Matthews were attracted by the smoke and forced open the front door. Croom sustained a severe cut when his head struck the low ceiling of a stairway which they ascended to the second floor, where dense acrid smoke made them cough. As Matthews moved toward the bedroom his foot touched Aaron, 1, who had crawled into the hall. Matthews picked up Aaron and handed him to Croom, who carried him out of the house. Locating the bathroom, Matthews found a blanket, wet it, and wrapped it around his head. Croom returned to the second-floor hall but inhaled smoke and, coughing violently, went outside. Hearing Wayne, 2, and Rodney, 3, on the third floor, Matthews made his way to the stairs and ascended them. On the third floor the smoke was so dense that he could see nothing. Groping, he moved into a bedroom and fell onto a bed atop Wayne and Rodney, losing the blanket. Coughing and choking, Matthews carried the boys to the stairs, where he began to feel dizzy. He took the boys into the bedroom at the front of the third floor and located a window. Matthews placed the boys on the floor, broke the glass, and thrust his head outside for air. Meanwhile Croom had climbed onto the porch roof and was standing beneath the window. Matthews lowered Wayne and Rodney to Croom who handed them to persons on the ground. Soon afterwards Croom and Matthews collapsed. Firemen arrived, used stretchers to lower them to the ground, and then extinguished the flames. Croom and Matthews recovered.
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