‘Sandwich of excitement’; A baby and a fire is all in a Christmas Day’s work for GFD 

Phanteazia Erwin holds her new baby, Zane Matthew Erwin, who was born on Christmas day.

Phanteazia Erwin holds her new baby, Zane Matthew Erwin, who was born on Christmas day.

GLOVERSVILLE — Christmas turned out to be an extra-special shift for members of the Gloversville Fire Department.

The day started at shift change around 8 a.m. on Christmas morning. That’s when 31-year-old Phanteazia Erwin woke up feeling a lot of pain. Her sixth son was due Dec. 20, but on Christmas morning, she didn’t think her baby was ready to be born.

“I was going back and forth from the bathtub and the toilet.” Then she said she felt her baby’s head. Her mother, Stacey Erwin, called 911, and the first first responders at the Woodside Avenue home were two firefighters.

Jacob Schonfarber, a 28-year-old firefighter, doesn’t have kids of his own and, in fact, he had never before seen a baby being born. However, he has been trained in how to deliver one.

“It’s one of those things you learn about it once, spend a day or two on it, and kind of hope you never do it,” he said.

But as Schonfarber climbed the stairs to the second-floor apartment, it quickly became clear he would have to put his training to use.

“As we were going up the stairs, we could hear her yelling a little bit,” Schonfarber said. In his head, he was thinking Erwin was probably in the early stages of labor, and Schonfarber and his partner would just have to comfort her until the ambulance arrived and brought her to the hospital. “But then I came around the corner and saw that she was laying in the hallway.”

Schonfarber and his partner quickly got to work. Schonfarber recalled what he could from his training. How to guide the child out, how to deal with suction. Most importantly, he knew he had to keep the baby warm.

It helped that Stacey Erwin knew what she was doing, too. This was her 11th grandchild. And so, in the apartment’s hallway, Erwin and the two firefighters successfully delivered Zane Matthew Erwin, born 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches long. It took just three pushes, Stacey Erwin said. Mother and baby were bundled up and taken to the hospital to make sure everything was OK. They were released on Monday and Zane is doing well, Phanteazia Erwin said.

Mom said she was just as surprised as the firefighters at how the birth of her new son played out.

“I was like oh, goodness, I can’t believe I had this child at home,” Erwin said. To the firefighters, “I want to thank them. I appreciate them.”

Chief Thomas Groff said that while his firefighters don’t help deliver babies on a regular basis, they are prepared nonetheless.

“That’s what they train for. It doesn’t usually happen a lot, but it happened,” Groff said. “They did a good job, they did what they were supposed to. They took care of the mother. And the medics arrived there, put her in the ambulance and everything was all good.”

But the shift was only getting started for the firefighters. Schonfarber called the day a “sandwich of excitement.” That’s because at 3 a.m. on Sunday, the Gloversville and Johnstown fire departments were dispatched to a structure fire at 243 S. Main St. in Gloversville. The owner, Brandon DiPasquale, was home at the time and reported smoke in the downstairs apartment, Groff said. Upon arrival, crews got to work.

Inside, it was smoky and hot, and the fire was blowing, but firefighters did their job, Schonfarber said. No one was hurt — except a firefighter who cut his finger — and the damage to the building was minimal, Chief Groff said. He added that GFD and JFD were assisted by the Gloversville Police Department, GAVAC and Fulton County Fire Coordinator Steven Santa Maria. While the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental, it remains under investigation, Groff said.

Schonfarber said it’s easily the most memorable shift of his young career.

“After a day like that I’m incredibly thankful for the job I have because it’s extremely rewarding and every day is different,” he said. “To have a day where I can literally say I delivered a healthy baby and everything worked out? Right now, I’ve got to say it’s No. 1. But I’ve got a little under 17 years left.”

Groff said it’s all in a day’s work.

“We’re a busy firehouse, so all days are busy,” he said.

Still, Christmas is a day he won’t soon forget.

“To have two nice things like that happen in one day, it’s obviously a memorable day,” Groff said. “There are days that you think back to and reflect on, and this was just a good day to be at work.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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