As they pulled-up to 106 Oak St. early Tuesday morning, they were met by a frantic mother. "'She's still inside, she's still inside,' she was screaming," Hallam said.
"I couldn't believe the amount of smoke coming out of house," Hallam said. "We heard the sirens of the fire units, but we knew we needed to get the girl out immediately," he said.
Hallam said the mother and son had been on the first floor and escaped through the front door, while the fire prevented them from reaching the girl on the second floor.
"There were pretty heavy flames downstairs, so Ryan and I knew we couldn't get in through the front door," Hallam said.
The mother then yelled to the officers that her daughter was sticking her head out of a second-floor window around the side of the house. "We tried to convince her to jump, that we would catch her, but she absolutely refused," Hallam said.
"The girl was standing at the window and the smoke was really terrible," Hallam said. "She was coughing really bad," he said. The mother told the officers her daughter had asthma.
"We told her to get her face down below the ledge of the windowsill, which helped her get her breath," Hallam said.
Hallam and Merrell were standing in the yard between the burning home and a neighbor's house. "I was thinking about pulling my command vehicle -- an oversized SUV -- up to the house, standing on it and getting the girl to jump," Hallam said.
"Ryan ran between the two houses and discovered the neighbor had a ladder laying out next to his shed," Hallam said. "Ryan was gone less than 30 seconds when I heard a ladder banging and saw him carrying it while trying to hold his flashlight," he said.
The two officers leaned the ladder against the house. It was about three feet short of the windowsill. "We tried to get the girl to climb out the window and onto the ladder, but she said she was too scared," Hallam said.
Merrell braced the ladder against the house and Hallam headed up. "I still don’t think she was very excited about an old man climbing up a ladder to her window, but I didn't give her a chance to think about it," Hallam said. He grabbed the teen in a bear hug. "When we got to the point where her feet could reach, I guided them to the ladder and steadied her as we climbed down," he said.
Hallam said he was surprised to later learn the teen had been transferred to Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond. "She seemed to be doing really well at the scene," he said. "She didn't even want to be transported to Mary Washington Hospital," he said. "I hope she's okay."
This is not the first time the 24-year-veteran of the Fredericksburg Police Department has rescued someone from a burning home. It's happened twice before, once about 10 years ago.
"I happened to smell smoke while riding on bike patrol in the Mayfield area," Hallam said. "A few houses away the whole front of the house was in flames," he said. Hallam and a partner went in through the back and evacuated all the residents.
Officer Merrell has been with the Fredericksburg Police Department about two years, according to Hallam. "I'm glad Ryan was there," Hallam said. "He did a great job."
Of their 2 a.m. heroic deed [editor's word choice], Hallam said: "We were very lucky. We were in the right place at the right time."
Read more about the fire at: Fredericksburg Police Officers Rescue Teen from Burning Home
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