Jermaine said he climbed 15 stories up a West Philadelphia apartment building to help his bedridden mother, who was trapped inside

By Char Adams
July 23, 2019 11:43 AM

A 35-year-old man made headlines recently for climbing 15 stories down a high-rise apartment building on fire in West Philadelphia. Now, he says it was all to help his mother.

The blaze broke out at the Holden Tower on Holden Street around 9:28 p.m. on July 18. Fire officials received “multiple calls” about the incident, including reports of residents “trapped in apartments on multiple floors,” a Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson previously told PEOPLE.

That’s when Jermaine sprang into action. Jermaine, whose last name has not been made public, told WPVI that his sister called him from Holden Tower and told him that their bedridden mother was stuck in the building. He rushed to the scene.

“I actually climbed up because they were saying she was trapped in the apartment,” Jermaine told the station, noting that fire officials and police would not let him into the building’s front entrance.


“I took it upon myself, because that’s my mother. There’s no limits to my mother … The first cop said the whole building was on fire. My sister was out there, my mother not out there. I [didn’t] know what else to do but go up and get her.”

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Jermaine said he found his mother Sheila, 65, and her boyfriend safe on a balcony, as the flames hadn’t reached that floor. She told him that police instructed her to stay put, Jermaine recalled.

With that, he made his way back down. Footage showed him in a green shirt and jeans as he scaled 15 stories down the high-rise building.

“He climbed about 200 feet down on what looked like basically chain-link fencing and then the railings of each apartment building,” said NBC 10 pilot Jeremy Haas.

Jermaine’s mother made it out safely, according to WPVI. Four residents were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, according to the Associated Press. The police spokesperson said three officers were taken to local hospitals where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released.

“[All] for my mom’s safety. Period. I wasn’t worried about mine at all. I just wanted to make sure she was cool,” Jermaine told the station. “She can’t get up out of the bed or walk around … so if it’s a fire she’s stuck … I’m not just gonna sit there and let my mom die and y’all telling me I can’t get in the building.”

Jermaine said he used to live at the building. That along with his experience as a construction worker gave him the skills he needed to scale the building, he said. He made it to the ground uninjured and an officer let him go free. As for his mother, Jermaine said she was stunned by the act.

“She was more shocked,” he said. “She’s not surprised by the things that I do for her. She knows I’ll go over and beyond for her.”