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Heroes: Fredericksburg Police officers rescue teen from blaze

Two Fredericksburg police officers rescued a teenage girl from a burning home in the Courtland Heights area of Fredericksburg early Tuesday.

The Fredericksburg police and fire departments responded to a fire in the 100 block of Oak Street just after 2 a.m. Oak Street is just off Lafayette Boulevard in the city.

The two police officers, Lt. Bill Hallam and Officer Ryan Merrell, arrived at the scene first and saw the victim “hanging out of a second-floor window with heavy smoke pouring out around her,” according to a press release.

Hallam said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that when the officers arrived, the girl’s mother was pointing at the window on the top floor of the house, where the girl was trapped.

“I could tell the fire was getting close to her and there was a sense of urgency,” Hallam said.

He told Merrell to check the backyard next door to see if there was a ladder they could use to get to the girl.

A few seconds later, Merrell came back with a ladder.

Hallam said it was about a 13-foot drop from the window to the ground. The ladder was about three feet short of the window, and the girl was terrified, he said.

So, while Merrell steadied the ladder, Hallam climbed it and pulled the girl onto the ladder with him when he got near the top.

“I was concerned we were both going to go down the ladder faster than I had hoped,” he said.

Police typically respond to fires to help with traffic and crowd control, but don’t often go into the actual fire, Hallam said. In his 24 years on the force in Fredericksburg, this is only the third time he has had to aid at a fire scene.

“I knew the fire department would be there soon, but it didn’t seem like something we could wait for,” he said. “The window was pretty much our only option.”

Hallam said that the girl, a 16-year-old whose first name is Taylor, handled it very well, quickly composing herself after they got down from the ladder.

She was taken to Mary Washington Hospital and later to Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond for further evaluation.

Her condition was unknown Tuesday afternoon, said Fredericksburg Deputy Fire Chief Mike Jones. Hallam said she did not have burns.

The fire department located the source of the fire on the first floor of the one-and-a-half-story home and extinguished it quickly.

The family is renting the house, which was built in 1949.

While the girl was trapped upstairs, her mother and brother were downstairs. The mother and brother were not injured.

Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire Department units assisted the city.

The Fredericksburg Fire Marshal’s office determined that the fire was accidental, caused by unattended candles in a first-floor bedroom toward the rear of the home. Damage is estimated at $25,000 to $30,000, Jones said.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413