Local News

'Instinct' led Raleigh police officer into burning building

Posted January 27, 2013 6:21 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2013 7:35 p.m. EST

— A Raleigh police officer says instinct sprung him to action Friday afternoon as a blaze spread through a Raleigh apartment building while fire crews – hindered by winter weather and slick roads – made their way to the scene.

Timothy Hathaway, a three-year police officer with the Raleigh Police Department, was the first emergency responder to arrive at Mission Valley Apartments, near North Carolina State University, after a fire started in a ground-floor unit around 4 p.m. Friday.

Normally, police officers wait for fire crews to get the fire under control, but hearing that there were people trapped inside, Hathaway, who was a volunteer firefighter in high school, jumped out of his car, grabbed his gas mask and headed inside the smoke-filled building.

"I just figured there was a job that needed to be done, and I'd do my best to do something," he said Sunday.

Once inside, Hathaway knocked on doors, tried handles and, if no one answered, made his way into the units to make sure no one was inside.

"It's definitely not something I've gotten to do before," he said. "It's definitely a new experience."

Seven people, including Hathaway, were taken to local hospitals for smoke inhalation, but there were no other reports of injuries.

Residents, like Eamon Frier, say they are thankful for his quick-thinking, saying that, had it not been for him, they might not have known about the fire.

"He put his gas mask on, and he went in, and, by what I hear, he got a few people out of there," Frier said.

Investigators blame the fire on a resident who was smoking in bed. Sixteen units were destroyed.