ST. GEORGE — A St. George Police officer responding to assist in a structure fire broke down the door of an apartment filled with smoke and pulled an unconscious woman to safety Thursday evening.
“When you’re a police officer you get to wear all sorts of hats,” St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley said in an interview Friday, “and you never know what you’ll be responding to when you start your shift, and last night was no exception.”
Shortly before 11:15 p.m. a woman called 911 to report that she smelled smoke coming from a nearby apartment and could hear smoke alarms going off inside of her neighbor’s residence, Trombley said.
Firefighters and police were then dispatched to the Black Hills Apartments on North Valley View Drive.
St. George Police Officer Colby Carter was working nearby and was able to respond to the call quickly, Trombley said. When he arrived, Carter confirmed with the St. George Communications center that smoke was present and alarms could be heard in one of the apartments.
Carter knocked on the apartment door but received no answer. Since the fire department was still several minutes away, he kicked the door in and entered the apartment, Trombley said.
Carter was met with heavy smoke but continued inside where he found an unconscious woman lying on the floor in one of the bedrooms. As the officer started pulling the woman out of the room, she began to wake and become aware of her surroundings. Carter helped her get up and get out of the home safely.
“When I began pulling her out she came to and seemed confused, and wanted to go back to sleep, so I kept telling her that her house was on fire, and we needed to get out,” Carter said.
Another officer then assisted the woman who was suffering from smoke inhalation while Carter went back into the apartment to ensure that no one else was inside.
During the search Carter found a pan of burned food on the stove with thick smoke billowing from it. After turning the stove off and moving the pan, he confirmed the residence was empty before making his way out of the building.
“On the stove I found food cooking, that had been cooking for some time,” Carter said, “to the point that it was charred beyond recognition.”
By then firefighters and emergency medical personnel were on scene. Both the officer and the woman were transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center where they were treated for smoke inhalation and later released, Trombley said.
Once out of the hospital Carter went home, changed his uniform and returned to complete his scheduled shift.
Trombley said the neighbor who awoke to smoke and alarms going off in the apartment next door did the right thing by calling her neighbor, and then 911 when there was no answer. The neighbor knew something was wrong, and acted, the officer said.
“Without that call who knows how badly this could have gone,” Trombley said.
Carter, who has a little more than three years on St. George Police force, said he was grateful he was able to get the woman out when he did.
“I was only in the residence for about four minutes, but she was exposed for a lot longer than that so I knew that every second counted,” Carter said.
Tromley said everyone should make sure all stoves, candles, lanterns and cooking equipment are turned off before going to bed and that smoke detectors are tested, armed with fresh batteries and operational.
Thanks to Carter’s efforts, the outcome of this 911 call was favorable, she added.
“The quick thinking and actions of Officer Carter likely saved a life,” Trombley said.
For Carter, it’s part of the job. As he reflected on the events of that night he said he’d do it all over again – and he’s not the only one.
“I think I was in the right place at the right time,” he said, “and I have no doubt than any one of our police officers would have done the same thing.”
This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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