By Kristin Hoppa
St. Joseph News-Press
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Heavy smoke and fire did not deter a veteran police officer from rescuing a 3-year-old girl from a house fire Friday afternoon.
Officer Jeff Lanning, who has been on the force 18 years, was nearby when the Buchanan County Communications Center dispatched a structure fire call for 207 Fulkerson St. As he arrived, smoke was pouring out of the windows of the home as a woman stood on the front porch, calling for help.
"There were flames coming out some of the windows, said police Cmdr. Janice Rothganger. "There was a lot of smoke and a mother at the front of the house, telling the officer that her child was inside.
"Officer Lanning was not able to get into the house, due to all of the flames and smoke, but hewas able to break a window to call out to the child."
The mother and child had been on the sofa in the living room when they heard a loud popping sound, Ms. Rothganger said. The girl was frightened and hid behind the couch as the mother went to investigate.
"She first thought it might have been the air conditioner. But when she got to the back of the house, she found the room engulfed in flames and smoke," Ms. Rothganger said.
"The woman was unable to make it back to the living room, so she went out the back door before running back to the front of the house."
It was there that the mother saw Mr. Lanning. He broke out the window and called out to the child before she responded to the sound of his voice and moved toward the front of the house.
"When he saw her, he grabbed hold of her and pulled her out through the broken window," Ms. Rothganger said.
Emergency medical responders attended to the child for smoke inhalation and possible cuts. Fire crews began to extinguish the blaze and Mr. Lanning was also treated at the scene by paramedics.
Ms. Rothganger said the department was exceptionally proud of Mr. Lanning. He left the scene to be checked out by health officials after the fire department had the blaze under control.
The Midland Empire Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted the family, two adults and three children, with emergency needs and provided housing at a local hotel. Karla Long, emergency services director, said the family did not have homeowners insurance.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday afternoon.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the St. Joseph News-Press