Rescue on video: Norton first responders honored for saving couple from burning home

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Body cameras capture the daring rescue

NORTON, Ohio (WJW)– Special proclamations were handed out Monday evening for eight first responders after a dramatic rescue inside a burning home.

At about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, Norton police officers were first on scene as a house on Easton Road was engulfed in flames. Officers Sean Conner and Heather Bauer broke through two locked doors to rescue an elderly couple sleeping in a first floor bedroom, just before firefighters arrive.

“Get out the house, the house is on fire… It’s on fire,” the officers can be heard shouting to the couple on their body mounted cameras.

“Firefighter Earnsburger arrived at that point, Officer Bauer and Earnsburger escorted the male out, I escorted the female out,” Conner said.

“We was in bed… I didn’t hear anything or see anything until they busted the door down, our bedroom door,” said Barbara Rice. She told Fox 8 she and her husband did not realize their home was on fire.

Barbara Rice, 78, and her 82-year old husband Ardell survived. But Barbara’s 69-year old brother Jimmy Tribble died in the fire.

According to the fire chief, the smoke was extremely heavy on the second floor and that’s where Tribble was sleeping.

“The floor started giving out. The fire was too hot and we didn’t have any respiratory gear. So the smoke started getting to us at that point in time and we exited,” Conner said.

“I, Mike Zita, mayor of the city of Norton, do hereby proclaim March first, 2021 as the day to honor the Norton public safety forces,” said Norton Mayor Mike Zita, as he handed out proclamations.

Monday night, Zita issued proclamations, recognizing the three police officers and five firefighters who bravely responded to the call. None of the firefighters were able to attend.

“Just very proud of the police and the fire departments. They work together to serve the citizens of this town, they’ll lay their life on the line for each and every one of them,” said Assistant Norton Fire Chief Michael Copen.

“I’m extremely proud of these officers… When danger faced them square in the eye, they certainly placed their service to their community above themselves,” said Norton Police Chief John Dalessandro.

The first responders who were honored are:

  • Officer Heather Bauer
  • Officer Mike Guarnieri
  • Officer Sean Conner
  • Firefighter Joseph Kunkel
  • Firefighter Brandon Earnsburger
  • Firefighter Jeffery Kuykendall
  • Firefighter Jesse Brown
  • Firefighter Steven Kormushoff

“I just feel blessed that I got out of there,” Rice said.

Barbara Rice told FOX 8 her family will need to have the home torn down and rebuilt.

The Norton Police Department said it is using some of the proceeds from one of its annual fundraisers to donate to the family.

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