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Officers, RV save three from fire

Category: RV
Source: La Crosse Tribune, WI
Publish Date: Thursday, August 14, 2008
Summary: Quick thinking and a Type A parked nearby means the difference between life and death for a Wisconsin family

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Officers, RV save three from fire
By ANNE JUNGEN | La Crosse Tribune

La Crosse police officer Christopher Schuster was assisting with a fight on Sixth Street when the call came through at 2:25 a.m. Wednesday.

Fire. At 1035 Tyler St. People inside.

At the building, Schuster and fellow officers Dale Gerbig and Ryan Stenslien could see two adults and a child “crying for help” at a second-story bedroom window. Flames blocked the only exit from the South Side duplex, Schuster said.

A female tenant of the lower unit was moving her RV from in front of the home to allow fire trucks access, Schuster said, and an idea “just came to me.”

Gerbig helped the woman maneuver the RV against the side of the duplex, under the window where the upstairs tenants were trapped.

Then Schuster and Stenslien climbed atop the RV, bringing the officers within 12 inches of the family.

“They were frantic,” Schuster said. “The young man was really scared.”

Officers rescued the boy, who Schuster believed was about 10, then the mother and father within 30 seconds. The

La Crosse Fire Department arrived as the mother was being pulled from the window, Schuster said.

Crews kept the fire contained to the second floor, though the lower unit had minor smoke and water damage, said fire Division Chief Jim Hotvedt. The top unit had severe fire damage and moderate smoke and water damage.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. It is believed to have started in the rear of the unit, Hotvedt said.

The woman was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, while the man and child were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and released, said Tri-State Ambulance Director Matt Zavadsky.

The American Red Cross assisted the family.

La Crosse Police Chief Ed Kondracki praised the officers’ quick thinking and resourcefulness and credited their actions with preventing serious injury or death. They will be formally recognized by the department.

“It’s definitely up there in excitement because … we were able to save lives,” Schuster said.

Anne Jungen can be reached at (608) 791-8224 or

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