RUMFORD — A pair of Rumford police officers are being credited with saving a couple from their burning home at 43 Highland Terrace in Mexico last week.

Don Cummings and his wife, Sharon, both in their 70s, were pulled from their smokey first-floor bedroom window coughing as embers showered them, Police Chief Tony Milligan told selectmen at their online meeting Thursday night.

“I’m very, very proud of my two officers, Cpl. Lawrence Winson … and Officer Robert Haseltine,” he said.

Sometime after 2 a.m. Wednesday, he said, “My officers were actually at the station in Rumford doing some reports, heard the call that it was a structure fire and that there were occupants trapped. They didn’t give it a second thought. They jumped in their cruisers, raced over there and were first on scene.”

Rumford Fire Chief Chris Reed, whose department responded to the fire, said it started in the garage, spread to the house and kitchen and trapped the couple in a hallway.

“The only way out was the (bedroom) window, and those officers did a phenomenal job,” he said. “They’d be dead today if those officers hadn’t pulled them out the window.”

Reed said Cummings’ wife was disabled and had recently suffered a stroke.

“I was not on scene,” Milligan said. “but I was told that they estimated they had probably about a minute to a minute and a half left, and they likely would have perished in that fire.

“When the officers were on the outside, at that window, pulling them out, (the couple) were coughing and gagging and had embers coming onto their heads,” he said. “So it was a pretty intense moment. We were all very fortunate they got there as quickly as they did and acted as quickly as they did. We’re fortunate to have them on our team.”

Reed added, “I would agree that those officers made the difference then because the (couple’s) dog alerted them. They opened the door, which was a mistake, which then charged their bedroom with smoke and heat. The only way out was the window, and your officers did a phenomenal job.”

Milligan said he will present Winson and Haseltine with lifesaving awards. “I think it is well deserved,” he said.

It would be fourth for Winson. In January, he was given the Life Saving Commendation Award for his live-saving actions during a multiunit residential structure fire, Milligan said. Winson forced his way through a locked apartment door of the burning building to find a scared and confused child and parent who locked themselves in to keep away from the fire.

In 2014 he and Sgt. James Bernard received an award for helping save a woman’s life who had stopped breathing on the side of Route 2. And earlier that year, he was presented with a life-saving award for successfully talking a suicidal man off the Memorial Bridge in Rumford, which is about a 60-foot drop to solid rock, Milligan said.


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