Firefighters help deliver baby in Eglin base housing

  • Published
  • By Ilka Cole
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Base firefighters helped deliver a baby boy after dispatchers answered an early morning 911 call from base housing here June 13.

When firefighters arrived, Leana Zimmerman, now a mother of two, was in her living room hunched over on the floor in active labor.

"Things happened faster than we expected," Zimmerman said. "Once we were downstairs, my husband told me to get into the car and I said, 'No, no, the baby is coming. This is happening right here, right now.'"

Leana's husband, Airman 1st Class Josiah Zimmerman, prepared to help his wife deliver their baby while on the phone with emergency dispatch.

"The baby's head was already through the birth canal and facing me," said Josiah, an air traffic controller apprentice with the 96th Operations Support Squadron. "Within minutes, the baby was born in the firefighter's hands and I was cutting the umbilical cord with their help."

The 26-year-old mother said the firefighters were calm, gentle and encouraging during the baby's birth.

"Although I only remember seeing their shoes, having the firefighters there was nice and reassuring," Leana said. "More importantly, they arrived at the perfect moment. I'm thankful they were there to ensure our baby was OK and take us to the hospital."

The firefighters didn't even have time to don their sterile dressing kit when they saw the baby was on the way. They realized the newborn had not taken his first breath when Leana's last contraction pushed the baby out.

Timothy Panzer, a 96th Civil Engineer Group fire captain, helped guide the baby out. He supported the baby's head when the shoulders exited along with the rest of his body. He cleared the baby’s airways and wrapped him to keep him warm.

"We train and exercise these types of scenarios regularly, but this was the first time I helped deliver a baby," Panzer said. "We are qualified emergency medical technicians at the basic level. We're able to assist with birthing and deal with obstetric emergencies."

Thanks to the quick arrival of the well-trained firefighters and EMTs, Leana and her 7-pound, 6-ounce baby, Luca, are back home and doing well.

"Hearing the baby's first cry was amazing. It was a rejuvenating experience," Panzer said. "This was magical. Several of us are fathers so we knew how special the moment was. We wanted to make sure Mom and Dad were well taken care of."