Officers rescue woman from fire

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Officers rescue  woman  from fire Quick thinking on the part of two Ridgecrest Police Department officers resulted in a speedy rescue of a disabled woman trapped on the second floor of a burning building on June 27.

The officers were dispatched about a quarter past midnight to 236 W. Haloid Ave.

Officer Aaron Tucker was first on the scene, followed closely by Officer Eric Clinton and Sgt. Justin Dampier.

“I was the first one there, and I saw the upstairs apartment. The front half was fully engulfed in flames. There were several people outside,” said Tucker.

Clinton was only seconds behind him. “The front window blew out and there were flames coming out of it,” said Clinton.

The first task was to determine if anyone was inside. The neighbors didn’t know, but thought there were dogs around in back, possibly trapped.

“There was no way of going in the front,” said Tucker. “We went to the rear of the residence to get the dogs, and just then the woman popped out onto the balcony and started yelling for help. You could see black smoke coming out of the window and around the edges of the sliding glass door. The windows and glass door were black with smoke. You couldn’t see anything inside.”

Thinking as one, Tucker and Clinton hurried into the back yard and found an aluminum ladder. Tucker steadied it against the balcony as Clinton climbed up to the victim. The balcony railing was described as being about four feet high, and the woman was panicking.

Just then Dampier came into the yard. Clinton managed to get the woman over the railing and onto the ladder. Halfway down, her panic intensified and she was screaming. Dampier and Tucker plucked her off the ladder and escorted her out of the yard to the east, where an Emergency Medical Services unit was waiting.

“She was OK after getting checked out,” said Clinton. It turned out that she was in her mid-50s and disabled.

“Everything happens so fast in situations like this,” said Tucker. “Time doesn’t really exist.”

“I am so proud of these guys,” said Dampier. “It was instantaneous, no discussion. They did what needed to be done to get this woman down and out to safety.”

“We decided she was coming off that balcony right then,” said Tucker. “It was good teamwork. Several times, we’ve gone to where structures are on fire and people were trapped. This might have been Officer Clinton’s first time, but he got right up that ladder. She didn’t much want to go over the railing, but she had to.”

“It was really lucky the ladder was in the yard. There was no time to plan anything out. If the ladder hadn’t been there, we’d have found a way to get up there and get her down,” said Clinton.

“Even if we had to stand on each other’s shoulders,” said Tucker.

“We were lucky,” said Dampier. “Members of the Community Emergency Response Team and Police and Community Together were quickly on scene and secured the area. They handled traffic control and kept people who wanted to see what was going on out of the way so we were freed up to do our job.”

The Kern County Fire Department arrived just then and was able to extinguish the fire. The second-story apartment was heavily damaged, but the two lower-level apartments were only minimally damaged. According to the county fire department’s Public Information Office, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Both police officers have worked the same shift for several months. Tucker has been with the Ridgecrest police force for three years, and Clinton for only six months.

“It’s great to have these two guys on my shift,” said a beaming Dampier.

A press release dated July 1 read, in part, “With little regard for their own safety, the quick and decisive actions by these officers ensured the safety of a disabled and panicked woman who found herself trapped on an elevated balcony with her only exit route blocked by intense flame.”

Both Clinton and Tucker have been commended for meritorious and life-saving conduct by Chief of Police Ronald Strand.

Story First Published: 2013-07-31