BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Melbourne Police Department school resource officer is being credited with pulling a woman out of a burning, two-story apartment complex after spotting the blaze on his way to work Thursday, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.
Both the officer and the woman were transported to Holmes Regional Medical Center for treatment.
The fast-moving fire — which caused an estimated $100,000 in damages — was seen about 7:30 a.m. at the Mitchell Manor Apartment complex at 108 W. Fee Ave.
Police Chief David Gillespie said Officer Robert Smith, who was driving to work at Melbourne High School, saw the blaze and billowing smoke pouring from an apartment before pulling up to the parking lot.
“He saw the flames coming out of the side of the building on the first and second floor,” Gillespie said.
Smith ran upstairs, broke out a window and pulled the woman from the burning apartment.
“The fire had spread to other apartments. He broke the upstairs window to get to her,” said Cmdr. Mark Claycomb, of the Melbourne Police Department.
Melbourne Fire Department crews responded moments later and treated both the officer and the woman.
“It was definitely an impact to her survival and getting her out of her apartment,” Battalion Chief Thomas Michaud said of the officer’s heroic actions.
Firefighters also worked to extinguish the fire, which had spread to two apartments. Both the first and second story of the complex were destroyed, Melbourne Fire Department Chief Chuck Bogle said in an email.
Police said Smith has since been released from the hospital and is ready to get back to work.
The condition of the woman was not immediately available.
The cause of the fire was also unclear but Melbourne firefighters did say it was suspicious.
“It was a rapidly moving fire,” Michaud said.
Authorities said Smith not only saved the woman’s life, he then knocked on everyone else’s doors and made sure they also got away from the building.
“Off-duty police officers are some of the best people I know. This was very well handled by Melbourne,” tenant Rick Rothermel said.
Gillespie added that he couldn’t be more proud of his officer.
"Quick into action, everything that you could ask somebody to do to save the life of another human being," the police chief said.
The Brevard County Red Cross was contacted to assist residents with housing.
State fire marshal officials were investigating the fire.
News 6 partner Florida Today contributed to this story.