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Merrimack officers made the difference
Officers Stephen Wallin and William Gudzinowicz soon joined Landsteiner at the East Ridge condo complex, and they quickly determined where the smoke was coming from.
Entering the smoke-filled building, they found a burning mattress and an unconscious woman next to it. As the first two officers carried the woman to safety, Landsteiner rushed for the fire extinguisher in his cruiser. Running back to the bedroom he was able to put out the fire before the fire department arrived.
For their actions that day, the officers will receive a New Hampshire Union Leader Hero Award.
“Had they not gone in and taken that woman out of that condominium, I believe there's a good chance she may have suffocated due to smoke inhalation, or God forbid, fire injury,” said Capt. Peter Albert of the Merrimack Police Department.
“This played out within a matter of minutes. They were able to get into the area, locate where it (the fire) was coming from due to a fire alarm and then confirming through the smoke.”
It's not often an officer gets the chance to save someone's life, Albert said, though most seasoned patrol officers do so a few times over a long career.
“We're very proud of them,” he said. “We're proud of them as a police department, and I believe our community is proud of them for their actions.”
Albert, who heads the patrol division, said people often have the misconception that police just drive around and enforce speeding tickets. “They have a larger responsibility and I think this shows that.”
“Would they call themselves heroes?” asked Albert. “Probably not, due to their modesty.”
Indeed, Officer Stephen Wallin was bashful about the accolades.
“It's a little much, personally,” said Wallin, 26, a Merrimack officer for three years.
“I don't really think we should be heroes. I think we did what anybody else would have done in that situation. If three other guys or girls were working that night it would have ended up the same way.”
Wallin said he hadn't received training for entering a burning building. But somehow the three officers knew how to respond — and they saved a woman's life.
He and his two comrades were recently awarded police officers of the year award by the Merrimack VFW, and they have been nominated for the Merrimack PD's life-saving medal. If that wasn't enough, someone from the town has also nominated them for the Carnegie Hero Award.
“It all happened so fast,” Wallin said, still refusing to accept the hero tag. “We just did what we were supposed to do.”
About the Hero Awards
The Union Leader Hero Awards honor New Hampshire residents who have risked their lives in the previous year to save or attempt to save the life of another person.
The program is sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
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