DUBAI — Photographer Dennis Mallari’s assignment to shoot the New Year’s Eve fireworks was going fine until his vantage point started to go up in flames.
The 37-year-old Filipino was on the 48th floor of a luxury Dubai hotel looking out at the city’s skyline that’s crowned by the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Around 9:30 p.m., a fire broke out 28 floors below Mallari at the Address Downtown Dubai hotel, according to authorities.
He found himself stuck on the balcony, a great spot for photography but not for an easy escape. As flames licked the outside of the building, smoke quickly filled many of the hotel’s 63 floors, blocking off his potential exits.
“If I go there, inside to try to go exit, I’m not going to die because of the fire,” he told CNN, but “because of the smoke.”
Pleas for help
Trapped, scared and alone, he initially panicked and then sent desperate pleas to friends and family on Facebook.
“I’m here on the 48th floor. Help!” Mallari posted.
He also kept filming in an effort to stay calm, especially when things looked the worst.
“I saw some debris floating down from the building,” he remembered.
‘If this is my last chance, then so be it’
After almost two hours of fearing for his life, Mallari came up with a last ditch plan: He’d rappel down the building on a window-washer’s cable even though it wasn’t quite long enough to make it.
“I got scared,” he said. “I prayed. If this is my last chance, then so be it.”
As he started going over the edge, firefighters found him and saved his life.
They gave him oxygen and led him into a smoke-clogged stairwell.
A selfie to show he was safe
After walking down all 48 floors, Mallari was treated for smoke inhalation.
He let his friends know he was safe by posting a photo of himself wearing an oxygen mask.
Then, he went back to work, capturing Dubai’s fireworks just meters away from the burning building that had nearly claimed his life.