Orlando police officers who rushed toward a burning home to save three trapped women from a fire recently gave a first-hand account of the incident.
Officers Christopher Wiewiora, Wayne White and Ariel Clabaugh with the Orlando Police Department responded to the call of a fire on December 11 at around 4 a.m. at the Avalon Apartments on South Semoran Boulevard.
When they arrived, they saw that the building was covered in flames and smoke.
Body camera footage released by the department showed fire crews and police officers working together to bring 30 residents to safety.
Soon after arrival, officers learned from a neighbor that there were women trapped in the apartment above where the fire broke out, and one woman was pregnant and needed help getting out.
“We were just starting to secure the scene, and one of the neighbors said, ‘Hey, there are three ladies trapped on the second-floor balcony, and they can’t get down!’ Their apartment was right above the apartment that was on fire.”
While the Orlando firefighters worked to put the put the flames out, the three officers’ priority was getting the women to safety.
Officers Clabaugh and Wiewiora used a ladder to help the women climb down from the balcony while Officer White, who has a fear of heights, climbed up to help the women get down.
“Wayne was going up the ladder, and he told me later that he was afraid of heights, I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Wiewiora said.
“Yeah, I put Christmas decorations on my house and that takes everything out of me, so with heights and ladders, ha let’s go, let’s get them down,” White said.
All three women escaped without injury, and the flames were extinguished.
Melanie Rodriguez, who escaped with her dog and family, said she had never experienced a fire before and was grateful for officers’ help.
“It was nerve wracking. I had never experienced something like this.”
Orlando Fire Department Asstistant Chief Creed McClelland said he was thankful for the officers’ help and credited teamwork for the rescue.
“[The officers] definitely freed up our people to go inside the building and do an inside search to make sure there was no one else inside the building.”
“Bravery is not the absence of fear but the presence of action,” Officer Wiewiora reflected.