WINNIPEG – A pair of Winnipeg Police officers are a tad uncomfortable with the spotlight after running into a burning building.
Constables Ashley Thompson and Trevor Bragnalo say they hope they would have done the same if they weren’t cops.
Around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, they noticed a house on fire on Spence Street and tried to get in.
“Tried to get up to the front door, and I got one step onto the front steps but the heat was so intense that we couldn’t get any farther,” Thompson explained. “We worked our way around back, could hear people screaming for help. One resident was already down in the back, saying there were people still on the second floor and trapped on the third floor.”
The two decided to each take one side of the house on the second floor. Thompson helped a few people get out a window, while on the other side Bragnalo ran into trouble when he encountered a security screen.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘how am I going to get through this?’ The room was filling with smoke and you could see clear panic on their faces. I just took a step back and kept kicking at the screen as hard as I could until I smashed the window and the screen flew off.”
One resident grabbed a blanket to cover the glass so he and his suitemate could get out. Bragnalo then learned there was another person trapped on the floor.
“I crawled through the window, opened his door and went into the hallway, but the smoke was so thick that I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. As I turned around, I couldn’t see the door that I walked through. My partner had crawled in behind me, grabbed my belt and pulled me back through the door.”
By this point, fire crews had arrived, and Bragnolo told them about the remaining people were. They didn’t talk to any of the residents on the ground, nor do they know how many people they helped get out.
But one thing is for sure: they would rather you not call them heroes.
“I held off telling most of my family. Not one for being in the spotlight. Our training is to help people, and that was a situation where we were hearing people call for help. I think either one of us, whether it was on-duty, off-duty, ten years ago before I was a cop, I like to think I would have done the same thing, would have gone in and helped where I could.”
“I had my neighbours ask me if I knew anything about this [fire],” Bragnalo added. “I said , ‘Well, I did, yeah, it was me and my partner. They were just totally surprised. The word hero, I don’t see it that way. I just see it as what we do.”