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CNN Today

Atlanta Fire Department Saves Bulk Cash in Fire

Aired February 12, 2001 - 1:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look here. We have a bunch of firefighters who, as you know, spend their lives saving lives, but in this case, they saved a whole bunch of cash money, it's a very unusual story. We are about to tell it to you.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is. Let's introduce our guests here. Captain Gerry Ruzinski. Firemen Ken Hutchinson and Dennis Smith. Thanks so much. Who wants to tell us the story? You had a house fire and started looking through the attic, and you found what?

CAPT. GERRY RUSINSKI, ATLANTA FIRE DEPARTMENT: What happened was, we were relieving a shift that was at the fire all night long, but the fire was pretty intense and so they were not able to go inside the building. When we got over there to relieve them, we were there to do a primary search of the building.

Now, what was left of the building: the attic was gone, the ceilings were gone, and basically, the walls were barely standing. When we went in the front door, we noticed $20s and $50s, separate burned up. Well, we have ran into cash like that before in houses, and we didn't think that it was that big of a deal, until we started digging through the debris. When we hit about $100,000 in cash...

ALLEN: Oh, my word.

RUSINSKI: I called the chief and said, you better be come here. He said, I will be there in about 15 minutes. When we hit $200,000, I got back on the radio and said, you better get down here now.

ALLEN: Bring an armored truck.

RUSINSKI: When APD got to the scene, we had about $220,000 in cash. Everybody was standing inside the doorway and I said, hey, how about move out, so that we can clean up? They were standing on about $350,000 in cash there that they didn't know about.

WATERS: Were you guys tempted at all?

KEN HUTCHINSON, ATLANTA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Of course. We knew that it was the right thing to do to turned it in.

WATERS: And a lot of it was burned up?

HUTCHINSON: A lot of it was. The initial money we found was, and then, once we started digging and finding it, most of it was buried under stuff, so it wasn't charred, and it was still banded up from the banks and it was...

WATERS: Dennis, isn't that stuff supposed to be found in a mattress.

DENNIS SMITH, ATLANTA FIRE DEPARTMENT: I -- you would think so.

WATERS: Is this one of the oddest things that you have ever run across?

SMITH: Probably a once in a lifetime type thing to find that much money in a house like that.

ALLEN: And apparently, the man who lived here has passed away and is worth $6.5 million, from looking at this home, you wouldn't have thought that this person was worth a fortune. Is that right?

WATERS: So he had a lot in the bank. He just kept loose change around. What was the final tally?

RUSINSKI: We just did an estimate. We figure it was around $660,000. We thought it was probably hidden up in the attic, because it wasn't sitting on the floor. It was debris money, and then ceiling and flooring materials.

WATERS: Didn't you say that the house had been vandalized?

RUSINSKI: Over the months, people have been breaking in, stealing his junk, because he kept a lot of...

WATERS: Candle holders and things.

ALLEN: But they never found the money. Oh, boy. There is justice somewhere, isn't there?

HUTCHINSON: Millions of dollars right above their head.

WATERS: Good job rescuing that money, you guys.

ALLEN: I hope that you got a $5 or a $10 or something as a reward. I guess not.

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