As Garden Grove Police Cpl. Chris Wasinger started to walk up to the apartment unit caught on fire, the window blew.
“The fire just grew rapidly, it just like tripled in size,” said Wasinger, who had been parked less than a mile away doing patrol paperwork when the call came out to assist the fire department at an apartment complex on Bixby Avenue at about 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 12.
“I radioed to the other officers that were in the south side of the building to get everyone out of the parking area because the windows were blowing out.”
Fortunately, residents of the apartment – a mother and her teenage daughters who’d been cooking when the stove caught fire – already had left the unit.
First on the scene, Wasinger requested additional police assistance to help with evacuations.
“We didn’t know who all was out of the apartments,” said Wasinger.
Three more officers arrived to help knock on doors and clear the area so that Garden Grove Fire Department firefighters could work to put out the flames.
“I just started going door-to-door, knocking on doors,” said Officer Ryan Bustillos, adding that he’d run inside to make sure everyone was out of the unit. “I think in every apartment I went to there was someone home.”
Once all the residences were evacuated, officers did crowd control to keep the residents at a safe distance while firefighters worked to put out the fire. In the end, the fire was confined to the one unit with smoke and water damage in the surrounding units, according to Wasinger. There were no injuries or fatalities, and 45 people were evacuated.
For their evacuation assistance, Wasinger, Bustillos, Officer Ralph Lee and Officer Jason Johnson were presented with the fire department’s chief’s coin on Dec. 6.
“I was honored to receive the coin,” said Johnson. “There is sort of an unwritten sibling rivalry between fire departments and police departments, but when it’s time to go to work, everybody does their share and then some. Receiving the chief’s coin was definitely cool for me.”