Catching babies, rescuing politicians

courtesy of North St. Paul • State Rep. Leon Lillie and his wife Missy Lillie spoke at the June 19 North St. Paul City Council meeting, sharing their appreciation for the help Lillie received from North St. Paul first responders after falling off a ladder at his North St. Paul home this spring. At the same meeting, firefighters were also recognized for their good work in putting out an apartment fire that occurred the same day as Lillie’s emergency.

North St. Paul emergency responders recognized at council meeting

As a special thank you to North St. Paul firefighters and paramedics, Fire Chief Scott Duddeck told the city council during its June 19 meeting about two success stories from emergencies that happened during the same spring afternoon. 

April 22 was a busy day for North St. Paul firefighters, with an apartment fire and medical emergency occurring at the same time in different parts of the city.

The fire department first received a call in the early afternoon about a fire at an apartment building in the 2000 block of Seventh Avenue East. 

The blaze, which was started by unattended candles, began in a first-floor apartment and eventually broke through one of the apartment’s windows, spreading up the outside of the building and damaging two other apartments as well.

Duddeck said the fire was challenging because it was 900 feet away from a fire hydrant, but a fortunate combination of warm weather and good training helped firefighters put out the flames.

“It was a very nice day; it was very warm weather,” Duddeck said. “A week prior to that we had, if you remember, over a foot of snow and cold blowing weather, and outcomes would have been completely different fighting the fire and getting the equipment into the location.”

Duddeck explained that thanks to the department’s training, there were several instances right away of firefighters being in the right place at the right time. One of those instances was when Assistant Fire Chief Dustin Kalis caught a baby who was dropped down to him from a second-story balcony.

Following the fire, a video clip of the catch went viral, earning the story national media coverage. 

Kalis said it was thanks to the department’s training that everything went smoothly that day — no one was injured in the fire, though Duddeck said repairs to the building continue.

“We don’t practice catching babies, but because we work hard on other things, everything else can go smooth, so if something comes up — something unexpected like that — we’re able to react and handle that,” Kalis said. “I’m the one that kind of got the coverage, but it was because of everyone else doing what they were supposed to do and doing it well.”


Emergency responders bringing relief

While firefighters were busy catching a baby and putting out the apartment fire, State Rep. Leon Lillie fell from a ladder, breaking multiple bones.

“I don’t know, why you didn’t catch me?” he joked to Kalis during the council meeting.

Lillie is in his seventh term representing House District 43B, which is made up of North St. Paul, Oakdale north of Tenth Street and Maplewood precincts 10 and 11. Lillie, 56, is the brother of Lillie Suburban Newspapers co-publisher Ted H. Lillie.

He said at the meeting that he had been trimming an old oak tree on his property when he made a mistake and a branch knocked his ladder out from under him.

“Next thing I know, I’m airborne and I’ve got a live chainsaw in my hand, and I kind of threw that and then I’m heading toward the ground,” Lillie said. “I was in trouble. I had 20-some fractures.”

Lillie’s wife, Missy Lillie, thanked all those who responded to her family’s crisis.

“We were scared and not sure what to do. Seeing the first responder and emergency services crew arrive brought a huge sense of relief,” she said. “He was moved with great skill in a careful and casual manner so as to not alarm us more than we already were and then was transported quickly and safely to Regions [Hospital].”

Lillie also thanked those who came to his rescue, and pointed out that firefighters, paramedics and first responders see more trauma than the average person sees, saying he wishes that if any of them need help dealing with post-traumatic stress, that they seek help.

“My special thoughts [go to] the council for investing in the fire department and our emergency people, but I know Chief Duddeck runs a top-notch operation and these people — it’s a labor of love,” Lillie said, adding later, “I’m just lucky to live here.”


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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