Saving lives is at the core of everything firefighters do, but for one group of Tyler firefighters, a rescue changed their lives as well.
Early on the morning of May 8, 1993, the Tyler Fire Department was called to a structure fire. When they arrived, the fire was so bad they thought the best approach would be to take a defensive stance and keep it from spreading, but that changed when they realized a child had not made it out.
Jim Mullicane and his fellow firefighters frantically searched the house, but found no one on their first pass. They refused to give up and went back in once more, but this time Mullicane found the 3-year-old girl motionless behind a door. Somehow the area she was in had not been engulfed.
That alone seemed like a miracle, but she wasn’t breathing. Mullicane said firefighter Mike Willis ripped a curtain off a nearby window and wrapped little Raniqua Franklin in it to get her safely outside. Mullicane said he was changing his oxygen tank when he heard someone yell that she had a pulse.
That night has stuck with Mullicane for his entire career. He said over the past few weeks as he began considering retiring later this year, his wife Meri brought out old scrapbooks from his career and they reminisced about what saving Franklin’s life had meant to him.
“A couple years after the rescue I would see her mom out at Walmart and she would run up and hug my neck, but it’s been probably 20-25 years,” Mullicane said.
He wasn’t sure if Franklin was even old enough to remember him.
Little did he know that his wife was already scheming with his colleagues to make a reunion happen.
On Friday, Mullicane walked into Firestation 1 and began wondering if they were up to something. When he looked into a conference room and saw a video camera, he was overwhelmed.
“My wife and I had been talking about (the rescue) for the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I knew she was going to be here at the point I saw the cameras and stuff and literally got teared up just thinking about seeing her again.”
It wasn’t just Franklin, though. The City of Tyler and Tyler Fire Department also brought in several colleagues who had helped make the rescue possible.
Mullicane and Franklin shared a long hug, and then she introduced him to her own daughters.
“It was great, obviously, seeing lot of the guys I worked with that were there at the scene, but when she came in, even though she’s an adult now, 31 years old, her face to me looked like it did when I found her in the fire, just a beautiful little girl,” he said. “I just remember her face. It still looked the same to me, she’s just grown up now. It was great to see that she’s got two little girls of her own that are just beautiful, it was just really a special moment to see all of them together.”
Mullicane refused to take all the credit though, and when he retold the story, he pointed out how each of his fellow firefighters had worked together to save her life.
“When we pulled up it was almost so bad we were going to go defensive,” Mullicane told Franklin. “We didn’t find you the first time, we went through the hall. Room to room, but going back through doing a secondary we found you behind the door and that was the only spot that wasn’t on fire.”
Afterward, three generations of the Franklins celebrated with the families of the firefighters who had changed their lives all those years ago.