Four police officers received a provincial nod for searching and evacuating people who were inside a burning apartment building in Prince Rupert.
The B.C. 35th annual Police Honours Night selected the four RCMP officers for entering the residence that was filled with thick smoke and limited visibility.
“None of these officers hesitated to enter the smoke filled building despite obvious risks to their personal safety. For that, these four officers received the award of Valour,” said Alicia Bertrand, the public affairs officer for the ministry of public safety and solicitor general.
Corporal Jason Racz and constables Jay Patrick Collins, Hillary Murray and Geoffrey Tisdall received their honour on Nov. 17 along with 56 other police officers from the province.
Murray and Collins are still in the Prince Rupert detachment while the other two have relocated since last year.
Sgt. Dave Uppal described what happened that night.
Police responded to a call on June 19, 2015, at 4:30 a.m. that reported individuals were trying to kick in a door at 1799 Kootenay Avenue. While they were investigating, the apartment next door had observed a vehicle on fire.
They tried to put the fire out themselves, and then realized the apartment complex itself would also catch fire, which it did. They went into the building and pulled the fire alarms and went room by room. Const. Tisdall and Collins made sure the elderly and disabled residents had evacuated.
No one was injured, but the members and the manager of the apartment complex were treated for smoke inhalation. The Prince Rupert Fire Department extinguished the blaze and the physical damage was contained to the parking area roof and walls. There was smoke damage throughout the building.
“It doesn’t happen very often where you’re actually going into a building like that but obviously their actions — I would say — saved the lives of the individuals that were inside that apartment complex. Had that fire spread further or the amount of smoke damage that was done to the apartment I’m sure would have caused serious injuries to the people inside,” Uppal said.
The awards were handed out to 56 police officers who had exceptional responses to various incidents and needs. Lieutenant Governor of B.C. Judith Guichon and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris presented the awards Thursday night.