Nantucket Fire Department Captain Nate Barber was off-duty and getting coffee on Broad Street when he saw the smoke billowing from the Veranda House Saturday morning.
Along with several civilians, including Pat Marks, Barber sprinted to the scene to find the building fully engulfed in flames.
A hotel guest told Barber his son was still inside, so Barber entered the building to search for him. After being turned back by the smoke, he found another way in by jumping up onto a roof, and then a table, and entered through an open window.
“I got into the hallway, it was pitch black smoke, and there was a couple there yelling for help,” Barber told the Current from his hospital bed, where he is recovering and being monitored for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. “I grabbed them, took them out the window to another side of the building and onto a roof. Miraculously there was a guy there with a ladder, I think it was a neighbor, and we took the people down the ladder.”
That neighbor was Frank Harris, who lived next door to the Veranda House and lost his home in the fire. Harris said as Barber was running through the hotel yelling for people to evacuate, he remembered the ladder sitting in his yard from when he had a new roof put on the house recently.
“I had totally forgot about the ladder because I was so busy fighting the flames, then I was like ‘sh** I have to get that ladder,’” he said. “So I grab it, bring it over, and Nate yanks it from me. Nate is a good dude, man. He was intense. He was yelling and screaming. He saved lives. I was like who the hell is this guy? He comes up to me and says ‘I’m an off-duty firefighter and you’re going to listen to me’ and I was like 'yes sir, you got my attention. I’m listening'.”
After rescuing the couple he found inside the Veranda House, Barber went back into the burning hotel again.
“We went through three floors and kicked down doors but didn’t find anyone,” Barber said. By that time, the rest of the fire department had arrived.
The Veranda House management has confirmed that all the guests and staff of the inn are accounted for.
Nantucket Fire Chief Steve Murphy lauded Barber's efforts at the fire scene.
"Nate jumping on the roof and through windows, that’s all just incredible acts of heroism," Murphy said. "Containing it to what they did was a herculean feat. They’re all my heroes."