MANCHESTER — Officer Robert Megowen was patrolling Bremer Street on the city’s West Side one night last year when he saw flames coming from an attached garage of a three-story apartment building on Rimmon Street.
He neared the intersection of the two streets and as he positioned his cruiser to block it from traffic, he looked up to see a woman holding a toddler, peering out a third-floor window. Flames already engulfed the attached garage in the rear of the building and were starting to climb up the exterior of 658-660 Rimmon St.
Megowen immediately headed to the burning building. Another person ran into the building ahead of him, he said, and he ran after him — to get him out but also to get to the woman and child on the third floor.
Smoke was starting to fill the apartment building, but Megowen said he barely noticed it.
His focus was getting to that third floor. Once there, he found the woman, who by then was panicked, her child and her two other children.
Flames were already into the woman's kitchen; he needed to get the family to safety.
Megowen, 35, doesn’t know exactly how he got them out that day. “It happened so fast,” he said.
Once they were safely outside, however, Megowen went back into the building and headed to the second floor, where he forced open the door to ensure no one was trapped inside. No one was there.
Then he went down to the first floor to see if everyone had made it out of that apartment.
By then, fire crews were on the scene and firefighters were inside the building, searching it.
The March 28, 2013, fire was started by an arsonist in trash cans outside the five-unit building, fire investigators determined.
The blaze displaced nine people, including the woman and her three children rescued by Megowen.
Thanks to Megowen’s efforts that night, no one was injured.
So what made Megowen do what he did?
“The kid in the window,” the married father of two said. “We had to get them out of the house. I didn’t even think about it. I just went and got them out.”
Megowen has been with the Manchester Police Department since 2009, and previously was an officer in Hooksett. He credited Merrimack police for his chosen career.
“I could have gone down two different roads,” he said. “The police in my town steered me down the right road.”
Megowen is uncomfortable with the plaudits coming his way.
“I am not one for recognition so, for me, this is just a lot. It’s hard for me to comprehend. It is pretty overwhelming for me,” he said of being honored, first by his own department with a Life Saving Medal, and now with the 2014 Union Leader Hero Award.
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.
Recipients of the 2014 Union Leader Hero Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the State House on today at 3 p.m.
The event is free to the public, but an RSVP is requested.
For more information, contact Community Relations Manager Shannon Sullivan at 206-7833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.