Two Plain City police officers have been awarded the Fire Chief’s Commendation by Chief Mark Kidd of the Pleasant Valley Fire Department for their actions saving the lives of several senior citizens during an apartment fire earlier this month.
Officer Aaron Howard and Officer Tharon Prather received the distinction Monday during a meeting of the Plain City Village Council held at the fire department.
The award is given for a selfless act that could have resulted in harm to the individual performing the act. The award is the highest that can be given from a fire department — and it’s given rarely, Kidd noted. According to his research, the award has only been given 4 or 5 times from the fire department, most recently during the early 2000s.
On June 6, a fire erupted at the Pleasant Valley Colony Apartments on Stenner Court in Plain City. Within two minutes of the call, Howard and Prather were on scene. Flames were shooting out of the building upon their arrival.
The officers learned there were four seniors still within the apartment building and began evacuation efforts. Using a special master key available to emergency personnel, the officers entered the building and assisted the seniors with leaving their apartments. One man, Kidd said, was still sound asleep in his bed. Officers awoke the man and helped him to his scooter. The man was safely evacuated with the piece of equipment.
The evacuation took place amid smoke-filled conditions which typically would have required special masks, Kidd said.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I can tell you the conditions were deteriorating rapidly,” he said. “I am surprised they were able to make entry.”
Within five minutes of the call, the fire department was on scene, and within eight minutes, authorities were able to give the “all clear” signal — meaning all are safe and accounted for.
“That’s an unbelievable time frame,” Kidd said. “When I read that number, I knew something was different about this incident than normal.”
The fire took place one day after a similar fire happened in London, also in a senior apartment complex with similar units on site. However, the outcome was tragic in London when a 71-year-old woman died from smoke inhalation. She was unable to escape her bedroom.
“I truly believe we would have had a similar outcome had it not been for the actions of both of these officers,” Kidd said.
Andrea Chaffin can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.