LOCKPORT – Four City of Lockport police officers received awards for heroism during Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.
Lt. Todd Chenez and Officers Michael Stover, Anthony Pittman and Heather Rohde were honored for rescuing an unconscious man from a burning house March 18.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz presented them with the Governor’s Award, approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, while Mayor Michael W. Tucker presented city citations.
“I think they deserve it. They saved my life,” said Harold Storms, 70, who was unconscious at the foot of the stairs in his basement after sparks from a power saw triggered a fire in the dust collector of the saw unit at about 3:30 p.m.
“I pushed this piece of wood into the saw, and I saw some sparks get sucked into the vacuum cleaner,” Storms said.
Moments later, the basement was filled with thick black smoke, and soon the fire spread through the house.
“I yelled to my wife to get upstairs,” Storms recalled.
Storms himself, who had previously had open-heart surgery, collapsed during the 15-foot walk from the saw to the steps.
“I fell down, and I don’t remember anything until I woke up in ECMC,” Storms said.
Meanwhile, Stover and Chenez, who had gotten off duty at 3 p.m., were running nearby in training for a marathon. They saw the fire and ran to the scene, where Storms’ wife, Roselyn, told them her husband was still inside the burning home.
Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said Stover and Chenez ran inside and looked for the man, but they found nothing, and because of the thick, black smoke, they couldn’t see well.
Exiting the house, the officers asked Roselyn Storms where her husband was most likely to be, and she told them he was probably in the basement.
Stover and Chenez ran back inside and found Storms.
Maziarz praised their willingness “to go in that house despite the dangers, despite the fact that their own lungs were filling with smoke.”
Unable to move Storms, Stover and Chenez ran outside again to get some air and found that Pittman and Rohde, who were on duty, had arrived. All four ran inside and carried Storms out of the house, turning him over to city paramedics.
All four officers had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Eggert said Stover spent about 24 hours in the intensive care unit of Eastern Niagara Hospital.
Storms also was hospitalized for three or four days for smoke inhalation.
He shook hands with all of his rescuers at the end of the ceremony.
“I’m very proud of these guys, all of them,” Tucker said.
Eggert said the officers’ action “lives up to our motto in police work, to protect and serve.”