A house that lined Crandall Park on Redondo Road in Youngstown burned to the ground on Tuesday night.
Amidst the flames and smoke that night, WKBN photographer Jim Bowser captured a veteran fireman as he approached the house and saved an American flag.
By the time news crews had arrived, flames had already engulfed the house. Firemen had taken defensive positions, pouring on water to contain what they could.
In front of the house, about 20 feet from the fire, was an American flag flying from a pole. That’s when Battalion Chief and 34-year veteran Ron Russo decided something needed done.
“I knew from the point when I got there that we we’re going to lose the house,” said Russo. “Just because of the intensity of the fire. And I saw the flag and I said we can’t lose the flag.”
Russo, 60, a National Guard veteran, walked toward the fire and the flag. He managed to get it down, but at one point could been seen pulling hard on the line, bending the pole.
“One of the hooks wouldn’t come off and I didn’t want to tear it so I had to get it unhooked the right way,” said Russo.
The flag unhooked and was in tact when Ron Russo walked quickly away from the fire. The whole process had taken about a minute. He wrapped it up and handed it to a fellow fireman and said, “I just couldn’t let the flag burn.”
After that it was back to work on the fire.
“It’s our flag. I mean I’m a veteran, my dad was a veteran, my brother’s a veteran, and the flag means a lot to me as it does here on the fire department,” said Russo.
The fire was still smoldering at the site on Thursday. The pole sat bent in the bushes with blue twine wrapped around it. The flag ended up in a fire truck and was given to the homeowner who was happy to get it back.
“Yeah. It meant something to him too,” explained Russo.
Russo balked a bit at being called a hero. He instead kept saying the same thing over and over again.
“It’s just a job we do, it’s just a job we do. Nothing special. If I had to do it again, I’d do it again. The flag means something to me,” Russo said.