When a fire broke out at an apartment in Cedar Park last week, officers who arrived on scene before firefighters arrived put their lives on the line to rescue an unconscious man who was still inside.
The Cedar Park Police Department says the fire happened around 1:20 a.m. on April 11 at the Cypress Garden Apartments. Knowing there was a person possibly inside, Officer Jacqueline Quiles kicked in the door while Officer Ian White and Officer Ryan Zander made their way inside. Quiles happened to be just across the street working on her paperwork when she was told about the fire.
“I looked at the smoke, made the decision to kick the door in, I got hit with smoke and the other two [officers] went inside,” Quiles recalled.
Body camera video from the officers shows them officers crawling on hands and knees through the smoke-filled apartment searching for the man. As they’re crawling, the officers yell out to see if anyone was in the apartment. Within 27 seconds, the officers found the man lying unconscious on top of his dog.
The two officers rush to him and drag him out of the apartment. During that time, the officers can be heard coughing. “He’s still breathing,” said one of the officers as they’re moving him.
Quiles put her EMS training to work and helped get the victim’s airway open so that firefighters could start treating him as soon as possible.
“I think it was a group effort, I think that’s ultimately what saved his life was the effort between all three agencies,” Quiles said.
The victim was flown to a burn unit in San Antonio where he was treated for smoke inhalation. He was released from the hospital a few days later and is expected to make a full recovery. His dog died in the fire.
All three Cedar Park officers who entered the apartment unit were treated for smoke inhalation on scene.
Quiles says as a police officer she often finds herself the first person at a scene. “A lot of times police are there first just because it takes everybody else a little bit longer to put all their gear on.”
Cedar Park Fire Chief James Mallinger wrote an email to Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix praising the three officers for their efforts.
“It would have been harder for him to be alive today, so I do praise them for their efforts,” Mallinger said. His fire battalion chief arrived on the scene around the same time the police officers did, and his crews were able to start giving medical care as soon as the man was brought out of the apartment.
Mallinger said these officers made the right call, but he noted that in many cases it would not be safe for officers to intervene because either they lack protective breathing equipment or they could bring in more oxygen which would stoke the fire.
There was no smoke detector in the bedroom the man was found in, which Mallinger says is a reminder of why it’s important for the public to install smoke detectors in the rooms they sleep and in the hallways outside the rooms where they sleep.
While the fire department doesn’t know the exact cause of the fire yet, Mallinger says it originated in the kitchen and that it is not suspicious.