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Austin Miller

Police officer’s “heroic” efforts save 7 from Columbia fire
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STEPHANIE BRADFORD | Correspondent and RYAN ROBINSON | Staff Writer | Updated 16 hours ago
A Columbia Borough police officer is being credited with saving the lives of seven people, including an infant, after he evacuated them from a burning home Tuesday night.
Austin Miller, an 11-year veteran of the department, was on routine patrol around 11 p.m. when smoke drifted into his vehicle near 9th and Manor streets.
He got out to investigate but was unable to find the source of the smoke.
Miller then saw two men who yelled there was a fire. One of the men was on the phone. As he ran toward the men, he saw flames shooting from the rear of a home at 631 Manor St.
Miller said he banged on the door of the house and quickly evacuated the occupants — including a woman holding a baby — none of whom knew the home was on fire.
Seeing that the flames were moving toward a neighboring home, he entered the unlocked structure and roused two people sleeping there.
The occupants of both homes were uninjured. One man was checked at the scene for smoke inhalation but didn’t require hospitalization, officials said.
“Things couldn’t have ended any better. Everyone got out alive,” Miller said Wednesday.
If the fire had to happen, Miller said, it was in the best possible location. The fire department is just down the block, and he credited them for their rapid response.
Columbia Borough police Chief Jack Brommer on Wednesday called Miller’s actions “heroic.”
Columbia Borough Fire Chief Scott Ryno said there were no working smoke detectors in the home where the blaze started.
Ryno said flames were visible from the exterior when fire crews arrived. He said a bedroom on the second floor at the rear of the home was on fire.
Firefighters extinguished the bulk of the blaze in 10 minutes and then checked for any hidden fire, he said. The fire was marked under control at 11:52 p.m.
About 50 firefighters responded from Columbia and area departments. None were injured, despite slippery conditions around the house.
Trooper Dustin Shireman, a state police fire marshal, determined the accidental fire started in the bedroom and was electrical in nature.
American Red Cross said it is helping six adults and one child displaced by the fire.
Red Cross volunteers assisted with food, clothing and shelter and will follow up to determine any additional needs.
The home is owned by Roman Leonardo Mendez, according to Lancaster County property records.
Damage was estimated at $25,000, Ryno said. The home next door at 635 Manor St. incurred $5,000 damage when some of its siding melted from the heat of the fire.
The fire was initially dispatched as being at 601 Manor St., and later corrected to 631 Manor St., according to the chief.
Ryno reminded Columbia Borough residents that free smoke detectors are available from, and can be installed by, the fire department. To obtain one call 684-5100. 01/30/2014





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