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Mt. Morris Officer saves elderly woman from fire

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: January 8, 2019


– By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor with excerpts from news media

A Mt. Morris Township K9 Officer’s quick thinking and action led to the rescue of an unconscious elderly woman trapped in her burning home. Bonnie Paschal, 78, survived and was released from the hospital in early December.

Photo courtesy of Mt. Morris Township Police                                                 Mt. Morris Township K9 Officer Blake Paulic is expected to be honored by his department for rescuing an elderly woman, who was trapped inside her burning home.

Officer Blake Paulic was first on the scene of a house fire at 5413 Farmhill Road in Mt. Morris Township at approximately 11:45 pm Nov. 19, 2018. “It was unknown at the time if the home was occupied,” said Mt. Morris Township Police Det. Sgt. Michael Veach. “Officer Paulic arrived on scene within 3 minutes of answering the call. … He could see that the structure fire was fully involved.”

The 10-year Township Police veteran wasted no time assessing the situation. “I came up the driveway. The house appeared to be well kept and also there was a garbage can on the road, so it made me believe someone did live there,” said Paulic in an nbc25 news.com article.

He saw fire was coming through the roof in the back of the house, so he rushed to the rear patio door. “At first when I looked in there I couldn’t really see much because there was so much smoke. And then on second look I could see what looked like a human hand at the bottom of the smoke,” Paulic said in a wnem.com news article.

“While the fire was raging through the home, Officer Paulic knew that he had to act quickly, as the fire department was still minutes away. However, the home’s door and windows were all covered in Armor Guard security bars,” Veach said.

The slider to open the bars was slightly ajar and a 78-year-old woman was lying on the other side of the door. “I grabbed onto it and pulled as hard as I can. I got lucky as was able to free it,” Paulic told nbc25 news.com. “She was basically trapped in her own house. On one side of the Armor Guard is her and the flames and the fire, and on the other side is pretty much freedom and she can’t get to it.”

Without pausing to consider his own safety, he ran into the home. “Through thick smoke and tremendous heat from the flames Officer Paulic then pulled the elderly female from the burning home and carried her to the safety of the front yard away from the burning home,” Veach said.

Paulic said paramedics arrived seconds after they escaped the burning home. Paschal was suffering from smoke inhalation, with soot in her mouth and throat, but did not suffer any burns, Veach said. Thanks to Paulic’s heroic actions, Paschal survived the fire after originally being admitted in critical condition, Veach said.

“What I think happened is she probably woke up and saw was a fire but was unable to get out because of the Armor Guard,” Paulic said in an Mlive.com article. “With all of the smoke, I am sure she was overwhelmed.”

“What’s crazy about this job is you never know when it’s going to happen or what’s going to happen,” Blake told nbc25news. “My actions weren’t because I was law enforcement or a first responder. It’s human nature to save somebody else. What kind of person would I be if I stood back and did nothing.”

When firefighters searched the home, they didn’t find any other people or animals inside. Mt. Morris Township Fire officials said the fire started in the woman’s bedroom and was caused by a space heater. The house was a complete loss.

Paulic is expected to be presented with a Meritorious Lifesaving Award by his department and was nominated for the 2019 Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Outstanding Service Award (OSA) for going above and beyond the call of duty. “Officer Paulic demonstrated tremendous bravery for risking his own life to enter the burning structure to save the life of a complete stranger,” Veach wrote in his nomination letter for the LEEP OSA Award.