Officers commended for life-saving actions
POLICE officers who worked to save elderly and vulnerable people following a major fire at a residential home in Penrith last year have been commended by Cumbria's chief constable.
The awards were presented last night at a special ceremony at the Roundthorn Hotel, Penrith.
Officers commended were Inspector Kim Brennand, Sergeant Mark Somers, PC Ruth Coates, PC Christopher Davies, PC Adrian Braniff, PC Nigel Hamblin; PC Nick Dumphreys, PC Erich Thoele and Sergeant Tim Parkin, who is now retired.
In November, 2016, a fire started in a flat at the residential home at Lonsdale Court. Some of the first people to respond were PCs Coates, Davies and Braniff.
When they arrived at the scene they found a flat on fire, a building full of smoke and one person dead.
They also found many residents were still in their homes, so the three went from flat to flat and room to room, evacuating residents. In some cases they had no option but to force entry to properties and carry the residents out.
A total of 28 residents were evacuated from the home and left outside in the cold and rain.
Sergt. Somers set up a reception centre at Penrith Leisure Centre and co-ordinated a multi-agency approach. He managed the centre and ensured the health and welfare of everyone affected was prioritised.
The overall response to the fire was commanded by Insp. Brennand, who was assisted in co-ordinating the initial multi-agency response and operation by Sergt. Parkin and PCs Thoele, Dumphreys and Hamblin.
Insp. Brennand said: "This was an extremely distressing incident with the loss of a man’s life and many other people being uprooted from their homes.
"However, I cannot praise enough the actions of the officers that day. Not only were they engaged in rescuing people and saving lives, but were arranging food, clothing and fresh medication to replace that which had been lost in the fire. They were comforting distressed staff and vulnerable residents, helping them clean up and change their clothes. They wrapped them in blankets and transported people to get them to warmth and safety.
"They were not only police officers that day — they became carers, helpers, drivers, firefighters, everything! They were outstanding. Their priority that day was to save life, and then to help those who had suffered the loss of their home.
"The three officers who went into the building suffered smoke inhalation as they put their own lives at risk to save others. All whilst the building threatened to collapse around them.
"That day I witnessed the best teamwork I have ever seen and everyone involved — including other emergency responders and the local community — should be proud of their efforts."