Florida Police Officers May Get Award For Rescuing Woman From Fire

Police officers are accustomed to fighting crimes -- not fighting fires.

But during one early-morning call, Pembroke Pines Officer Richard Barnes and Sgt. Al Xiques found themselves outside a burning apartment with a woman inside and no other help immediately available.

The two officers rescued Angela Mahon from the fire. Their heroic act is being reviewed for a possible Life Saving Award from the Pembroke Pines Police Department Awards Committee.

"If it wasn't for them, I would be burned really bad right now," said Mahon, 25, who was carried from the apartment. "I thank them for not letting me get burned alive and saving the apartment. I was pretty shaken up, but there was no smoke damage, no fire damage and no burn marks."

At 1:20 a.m. April 8, Pembroke Pines police and fire-rescue were called out to the fire at Pine Hill Plaza apartments, in the 7000 block of Johnson Street.

The two officers, working the midnight shift, were finishing a traffic call down the street. Barnes was the first on the scene and saw a lot of smoke coming from the second floor. Duane Townshend, who also lives in the apartment, was outside.

"Duane was waving me down and yelled, `My couch is on fire and my girlfriend is still inside and I don't know where she is,'" Barnes said.

The officer ran up the stairs and entered the smoke-filled apartment.

"I thought I saw someone on the couch. I tried to shake her. She was on the couch next to the couch on fire," Barnes said. "I was coughing. While in there, it was hard to breathe."

Barnes had to run out to get some fresh air. At that point, Xiques arrived.

"I heard him say she is over here," Xiques said. "I went in. The smoke was thick, but I was able to see him, kneeling down trying to pick something up. He got her legs and I got her shoulders."

The two officers carried Mahon down the stairs to safety.

"She was still unresponsive but gained consciousness a few moments later," Barnes said.

Fire-Rescue arrived and took over. The building was evacuated and no one else was injured. Mahon was treated with oxygen and released at the scene. Townshend had a few minor burns.

Barnes and Xiques, who suffered smoke inhalation, were taken to Memorial Hospital Pembroke. They were treated, released and returned to work that night.

"It's one of those things we knew what we had to do: There was someone inside and we had to get them out," said Barnes, who had never rescued anyone from a fire. "I don't feel like a hero; it's just part of the job. If you are going in for someone, once you're inside it's your job to get them out."

Xiques said Barnes was more deserving of an award.

"I backed him up and did what I had to do. I give credit to Officer Barnes. He is a new officer and he performed tremendously," Xiques said. "He went in and on instinct, found her and took her out. He didn't hesitate and there were no second thoughts."

This was the second time Xiques has performed a fire rescue.

"Six years ago, I saved three Lhasa Apso puppies that were in a cage in the garage," he said.

The cause of the apartment fire was a discarded cigarette between two couch cushions, said Pines Fire Marshal Dave Raines. There was $100 in property damage.

Townshend said he fell asleep on the couch with a cigarette in his hand. At some point, he woke up and moved from the living room to the bedroom, leaving his girlfriend on the other couch. He later awoke to the smell of smoke.

"I tried to wake her, but she was passed out," said Townshend, 28. "I ran out and knocked on a neighbor's door to call 911."

Townshend was grateful for the officers.

"I said thanks and their response is, `That's what we do,'" Townshend said. "What they do is not easy work. They came into the apartment with smoke. It was pretty impressive and she is fine."