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By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

There is a usually good-natured rivalry between police officers and firefighters. Police officers say they are glad to serve because firefighters need heroes to look up to. They say that kids dressed as firefighters on Halloween can’t go to the door until a kid dressed as a police officer makes sure the scene is safe. All firefighters want to be cops, they just can’t pass the police exam. And so it goes.

Despite the jealousy that police might feel for firefighters sleeping, watching television, and cooking at the station, and their adulation from the public, when it comes to converging on a deadly fire, the red and blue are on the same team. Of course, firefighters claim that the police show up because they secretly want to be firefighters!

There are often times when police officers discover a fire in progress or are the first officials on a scene. The mobility of officers on patrol compared to the response of fire equipment from the fire station, no matter how efficient and prompt, transporting a crew, then setting up at the scene takes time. Despite warnings and even some department rules prohibiting it, officers have often entered into the literal hot zone in attempts to rescue persons in flaming structures and vehicles. In that thin zone between courage and foolishness, officers rush in without protective gear unable to bear just standing by waiting for those properly equipped even if just minutes away.

Such a dramatic scene unfolded in July of this year in Old Bridge, New Jersey, when Police Officers Matthew Jaikissoon and Sara Micich arrived at the scene of a fire where black smoke billowed from the door and window of an apartment. The 911 call reported that there were children in the residence. A man on the front lawn was yelling “baby, baby!” and the officers charged into the structure, forced to exit within a minute as smoke made the interior invisible and choked the officers. Outside they immediately saw a man in a bedroom window holding the body of a child. Officer Jaikisson pulled the child from the window as Officer Vinny Galgano began CPR.

As firefighters arrived on the scene, police officer Nicholas Petrone, having once entered the building and driven out, borrowed a respirator to re-enter the building to carry a female resident to safety. Assistant Fire Chief Vincent Lovallo was able to rescue a baby from the residence and two other children escaped on their own.

Police in Kenosha, Wisconsin in April of this year attempted to stop a vehicle whose flat tire was degraded to the point that the wheel was causing sparks on the pavement. The driver did not stop for the officer’s emergency equipment and the sparks caused the vehicle, a minivan, to catch fire. Still in motion, the vehicle became engulfed in flames, eventually stopping. The Kenosha police officer pulled a disoriented 84-year-old man from the blazing vehicle.

Kenosha seemed to be a hot spot in the summer of 2023, pun intended, as a county deputy responded to a report of a vehicle crashing into a building. The call was dispatched to the Kenosha City police, but sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Thomas happened to be close to the scene as dispatch reported that a person was trapped in the vehicle which was on fire. Thomas forced entry into the burning vehicle, cut the driver’s seatbelt, and pulled the driver from the car, then warned the residents of the home. The driver was charged with suspicion of operating while intoxicated.

Another Wisconsin deputy, this time in Washington County in October of this year, responded to a collision in which the female driver reported being trapped in her car with her three children. On arrival, the deputy noticed that the engine compartment of the vehicle was on fire. After unsuccessfully attempting to extinguish the fire, the deputy broke out windows in the car to rescue the occupants. The children were uninjured, and the mother suffered only minor scratches.

Without question, the fire service is the best answer for putting the wet stuff on the red stuff, but their colleagues in blue are willing to step in when seconds count. 

This post was originally published on this site