An unidentified woman dropped a newborn off at a Midtown fire-station in a brown paper bag. Tonight, law enforcement officials say it's an example of the "safe haven" system at work.
Even though fire houses in Tennessee are not technically considered "safe havens" for unwanted newborns, the baby left at station 13 Tuesday afternoon is safe.
Firefighters watched a woman, possibly in her early 20's, park in their driveway Tuesday afternoon.
"She got out of the car carrying a paper bag, came into the fire station," said Lieutenant Larry Boothby. "Asked if this was a safe place. We said yes, handed us the paper bag and left."
Boothby knew what was inside. "I knew what I was going to find in there. It was just a question whether it was a live baby or a dead baby. That was the only thing on my mind."
Memphis Police say the baby girl had a freshly cut umbilical cord with a paper clip around it.
Tennessee law allows mothers to drop off an unharmed, newborn baby up to 72 hours old at a hospital or other pre-determined "safe haven," no questions asked.
Though fire stations are not technically considered newborn safe-havens, Lieutenant Boothby says the mother he met Tuesday did the right thing.
"Man, I'd rather have them come up to the fire station and drop a kid off at the fire station where at least it's going to get taken care of," he says.
Firefighters immediately went into action. "I have a paramedic assigned to me on my engine company and I called him up front and we assessed it, called for an ambulance, called for the police, assessed the child and then the ambulance got here, transported the baby to the hospital."
Police say the baby is under evaluation at the MED birth unit in non-critical condition. For now, the baby is the responsibility of the Department of Human Services.
Safe Place babies are traditionally placed in pre-adoptive care until they can find a permanent home.
Lieutenant Boothy can only speculate the woman learned about the Safe Place Law after hearing about the arrest of another Memphis woman last week, charged with abandoning her baby in her own backyard. She never said why she was leaving her baby.