Two Huntingdon police officers are set to receive awards from the Royal Humane Society, after bravely pulling an elderly woman to safety as her bungalow was engulfed in smoke.
PCs Leanne Temperton and Andrea Farnes had been en route to another incident when they were called to a 75-year-old woman who had collapsed in Ailwine Road, Upwood, in February 2015.
Travelling separately, Leanne was first on the scene at about 3.15pm, but, unknown to emergency services, the house was rapidly filling with thick grey smoke after a joint of meat had started to burn on the hob.
Spotting a figure lying on the living room floor, Leanne knew she couldn’t wait for back-up and asked two paramedics to help her reach a nearby window.
“It’s instinct,” she told The Hunts Post.
“I can’t stand there and wait for the firearms unit for 15 minutes because it’s life-changing. It’s not the fire that kills you, it’s the smoke, and nobody knew how long she had been there.”
Using a hammer to smash it open, Leanne squeezed through the window, cutting her hand in the process, before covering her face with her police jacket and running through the house to find some keys.
“It was disorientating for me because I couldn’t find the keys,” the 30-year-old added, remembering the smell and two minutes’ worth of smoke on her chest.
“I got to the hallway, but old people don’t tend to leave keys in doors, so by the time I found the keys I couldn’t physically put it in the internal lock. That’s when I thought I’m going to have to get out.”
With Andrea now at the house, the pair opened the front door and found the lady, who had suffered a stroke and pulled a lifeline cord, dragging her out as more police arrived.
“We thought she might already be dead, but she blinked,” Andrea, 46, said.
“There was no other movement so whatever the stroke was had been quite bad because she had no speech or anything.”
“You become focused and get tunnel vision where you just deal with that and don’t think about anything else and just go and do it,” she added.
“The adrenaline carries you through, and because we deal with situations that are quite volatile, everything shuts off apart from what you’ve been taught.”
Thanks to them, the woman survived and now Andrea is set to receive a testimonial on parchment, and Lea one on vellum, personally approved by president of the society, Princess Alexandra.
“I thought ‘This is what we joined the job for’,” Leanne said.
“Out of all the negative things, it’s jobs like this where you think, ‘Yeah, I’m doing it for the right reasons’.”
The officers are due to receive their awards on November 17.