First Responders Spotlight: Brockport Police first on-scene of Viking Apartment fire, save lives

First Responders Spotlight

BROCKPORT, NY (WROC) — Dozens of people lost everything in the Viking Apartments fire October 14, in the Town of Sweden. No one died, but if it hadn’t been for three Brockport policemen arriving on-scene, some say the loss could have been far greater.

Officer Zach Wakefield, Officer Chris Clawson and Sergeant Paul Wheat of the Brockport Police Department were the ones critical in response to the fire. This call, outside of their area of responsibility. 

“We knew they were going to need all the hands they could get. So it was kind of instinctually that we went,” says Officer Zach Wakefield.

These three men were the first to arrive on-scene. 

“Not to speculate but if we hadn’t been there, the smoke probably would have overtaken people. The building went very quickly,” says Sgt. Paul Wheat.

When they first got there, Sgt. Wheat went to the back of the building, while Officers Wakefield and Clawson took the front, banging on windows along the way and getting tenants out.

“I couldn’t breathe whatsoever, I couldn’t see. Anyone who was exiting the building would have been disoriented and dropped from being overtaken by the smoke,” says Officer Christopher Clawson.

All the smoke, shooting down from the third floor to the rest of the structure. The police say a few smoke alarms did go off, but could barely be heard. “Anybody who was sleeping, not aware of what was going on, would have stayed asleep,” says Clawson.

Within minutes, the University Police arrived on scene as well as Brockport Fire and other departments. But as the men point out, in a situation like this, seconds are what count. 

“They were there very shortly after us…but yeah, every second counts. That’s why we went,” says Wheat.

The men says it was a total team effort with all who came to the fire. In a press release, Kelly Smith, the PIO with Brockport Fire Department, listed them all: Barnard, Chili, Churchville, Egypt, Fairport, Gates, Hamlin Morton Walker, Hilton, Lakeshore, North Greece, Ridge Road, Scottsville, Spencerport, West Webster, Town of Batavia, Bergen, LeRoy, Stafford, Albion, Clarendon, Holley, Kendall, and Monroe Ambulance.

Sgt. Wheat says he was touched by the way the Brockport community came together, with places like Grinds 122 Café helping to issue donations and food to those affected.

Our batch of treats from Dunkin’ to the guys, much appreciated. But the men say just doing their job, well…that’s the real privilege here.

“A situation like this, this is the worst day in a (people’s) lives. To be able to be there and to be able to help the best I can, that’s why I do this,” says Wakefield.

The cause of that fire at the Viking Apartments is still under investigation.

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