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Fire, smoke didn't stop Berlin officers

BERLIN — Two Berlin police officers are being honored with Union Leader Hero Awards for rescuing a woman from a house fire in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2012.

Sgt. Nathan Roy and patrol officer Matt Carter's split-second decision to enter the burning building at 613 Western Ave. likely saved the life of homeowner Cynthia Gagnon. The officers, working the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, were at the station doing paperwork when a neighbor of Gagnon's called in the fire at 3:24 a.m.

"It was just fortunate timing; we happened to be back at the station," Roy said. The dispatcher immediately let the pair know of the emergency, he said. "We were out the door before she finished taking the information."

The Berlin Police Department is on Green Street, just around the corner from Western Avenue. The two officers got there before the firefighters.

"The whole back of the house was in flames," Roy said.

They parked their cruisers out of the way, so that when the fire department arrived there would be plenty of room. Carter went to the front door, Roy to the side door.

Though Roy said he could hear Cynthia Gagnon calling out from inside the house, "I still couldn't tell where she was."

He kicked the breezeway door in and entered. "The smoke was very thick; I couldn't see much."

He was several feet in when he saw a hand reaching out. Gagnon was on the floor, he said. He quickly pulled her to the door.

Carter, who had kicked in the front door, had come around the corner of the house and was on the breezeway steps. Carter grabbed Gagnon and lifted her up, then ran across the street, carrying her to safety.

Gagnon's dog followed them out of the house. Soon after, the fire department arrived to find the house engulfed in flames.

The officers' actions won them the praise of the mayor and council, the fire department and the Berlin Police Commission.

In the days following the rescue, Berlin firefighters sent a thank-you letter to Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency and the Berlin Police Commission, which was read at a Berlin City Council meeting.

Chief Randall Trull of the Berlin Fire Department said: "I commend the officers in two different ways: one, they put themselves at risk for the safety of others; two, they showed professionalism in how they did it by acting as if it was (just) another day on the job."

Roy said Gagnon had to go to the hospital, but was soon released.

"You get there and you do what you can," he said.

syoungknox@newstote.com



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