LAYTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – Four Layton Police Department officers suddenly found themselves in a life-or-death situation when an oil-fueled heater started a house fire.
Layton was dark and quiet in the predawn hours of Sunday morning January 12th. The officers on the graveyard shift were just about to clock out. Then around 5:50 a.m., a call came over the radio. A house at 2780 East Summerwood Drive was on fire and there were people inside.
A dashboard camera was recording as the officers were the first to arrive.
“Fire and smoke just pouring out of the house,” Officer Braden Peterson recalled.
“You could see the flames shooting out of the window,” Officer Samuel Rockwell said. “And there was just so much smoke.”
Two residents in the driveway told officers a woman was trapped in the basement. Officer Mitchell Porter tried the front door and Officer Rockwell tried the back door. Neither could get more than a step inside because of the smoke. They joined Officer Peterson and Officer Cody Bowman near a rear window well and broke the glass.
“All of a sudden the smoke just starts pouring out even thicker and it just completely consumes that whole window well,” Officer Peterson said. “Porter basically disappears in the smoke and I can see him leaning over coughing his lungs out pretty much.”
But through the choking blackness, a sound.
“We heard coughing and we could hear kind of the moaning and the groaning coming from somewhere in the basement,” Officer Bowman told ABC4 News.
“It was more of a kind of shriek like ‘Someone help me’,” Officer Rockwell added. “At that point when I knew she was in there, your adrenaline is kind of going through the roof. I mean, there’s a human being in there that is potentially in a serious amount of danger so all you’re thinking about is getting into that house, get that lady out.”
She somehow made her way to their voices and reached toward their outstretched arms.
“We grab a hold of her arm and we’re yanking on it trying to get her out of the window but the angle we were at we just couldn’t get her out,” Officer Peterson said. “Officer Bowman jumps into the window well and is able to get enough of her out so the rest of us can latch on to her body and pull her out of the window.”
“Once we got her hand…it’s almost like she just gave up,” Officer Bowman said. “She’d been struggling so much.”
The woman collapsed and Officer Peterson carried her away from the burning house.
“I threw her over my shoulder, climbed over this little 3-foot fence that just about killed me and ran her out in front to the paramedics,” Officer Peterson said.
The woman was taken to the hospital as a precaution but turned out to be fine, extremely fortunate that this team of a former firefighter, a former college football player and a former Marine were on duty that morning.
“For days after that I was thinking how proud I was to work with a bunch of guys who none of them are going to even hesitate to run into that smoke with me,” Officer Peterson said. “Nobody even had a second thought to put themselves at risk to get her out.”
Each of the officers told Behind The Badge anyone would have done what they did that morning and they’re not really heroes. Just about everybody – especially that woman – would disagree.
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