MASSILLON, Ohio-- A family of four was home on Saturday evening, unaware that flames were leaping from the back of their house. Three police officers just happened to be on a call nearby when they smelled smoke and jumped into action.
Massillon police were about to leave a medical call when a firefighter in an ambulance alerted them to smoke in the area at about 8 p.m. The officers raced to the scene on Commonwealth Avenue NE where they discovered flames roaring from the back of a home.
"Massillon police, get out of the house! Massillon police, your house is on fire!" officers could be heard yelling on their body-worn cameras.
Three officers ran inside and started evacuating people from the house.
"They said they could smell something, but they really didn't think anything of it. And they had no idea that the rear of the house was engulfed in flames," said Officer Anthony Crabtree.
"They did state there was at least one other female upstairs in the residence, which was obviously a concern with the smoke and the fire growing."
The heaviest smoke was still outside, so the smoke detectors had not yet activated. The officers cleared the family of four from the home and rescued their three dogs.
The closest firefighters were busy with another call, so an engine was dispatched from the other side of town. In the meantime, one of the officers used a garden hose to fight the flames.
"The neighbor had just got that hose that day and so, he ended up, started to put some water on it. Then, I'm actually a firefighter as well, and so I wanted to make sure that I hit the hots pots," said Officer Joe Williams.
The fire damage was limited to the outside, back of the home. Massillon fire investigators said it appears the fire was started by a discarded cigarette in a trash can.
"If the fire would've spread, especially towards the attic, things would have ended a lot differently," Williams said.
The family said they are grateful to the officers, the fire department and their neighbors who pitched in to help them.
Massillon Police Officer Ryan Wood was the third officer who helped with the rescue. Coincidentally, both Officer Williams and Officer Crabtree celebrated one year on the force two weeks ago. They started on the same day.