By Frank Andruscavage Republican & Herald
MAHANOY CITY, Pa. — Two Mahanoy City police officers credited with saving a man and young child from a fire in Mahanoy Township last year will be presented with the Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage award on Tuesday.
Patrolman Thomas “TJ” Rentschler and Patrolman Jennifer Dempsey will receive their awards during the Burn Prevention Network’s “Honor Our Heroes” program at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, Bethlehem.
The officers are being honored for their roles in rescuing Lucas Cheveres, then 49, and his son, Lucas Xavier Cheveres, 1, from their burning house in the 900 block of West Centre Street, an area known as Foundry Row.
Arriving at the scene minutes after the blaze was reported, Rentschler and Dempsey found fire around the front door of the home and shortly after heard a man yelling for help.
“We could hear him yelling for help from the second-floor bedroom window,” Dempsey said shortly after the fire.
Rentschler kicked in the door, and he and Dempsey proceeded through the smoke and darkness to reach the two in an upstairs bedroom and get them out of the house to safety.
“I grabbed the kid and she (Dempsey) grabbed him and we got out,” Rentschler said.
Dempsey said the house was filled with smoke when she and Rentschler were finally able to get inside.
“There was a lot of smoke, you couldn’t see, you couldn’t breathe,” she said.
Mahanoy City Fire Department Chief Dan Markiewicz, who nominated the officers for the award along with Mahanoy City police officer-in-charge Cpl. Charles Kovalewski, credited their efforts to saving the lives of the two occupants.
“The acts of these two officers definitely made a difference on the outcome of this call,” Markiewicz said.
The officers were presented plaques by the Mahanoy City Fire Department in December for their life-saving efforts.
In accepting that award, Rentschler said both he and Dempsey did what they knew had to be done and also knew that if they got in trouble inside the house the fire department was on the way.
“We have confidence in the fire department,” Rentschler said. “We knew if something happened you guys would get us out safely.”
The Spirit of Courage award program was started locally by the Burn Prevention Network in partnership with Valley Preferred and Lehigh Valley Health Network to recognize persons who have risked their lives to save others from a fire.
The program also recognizes individuals and groups who have done an outstanding job promoting fire safety or burn prevention education.
Valley Preferred, a provider-led, preferred provider organization, sponsors the program to raise public awareness about burn safety and to recognize people who put others ahead of themselves.
“The people we are honoring this year demonstrate incredible bravery and the potential we all have to make a difference,” said Mark Wendling, M.D., executive director of Valley Preferred. “These heroes exist in every community, and Valley Preferred is proud to be part of something that recognizes that.”
Dan Dillard, Burn Prevention Network executive director, said Tuesday’s event brings together first responders, health care professionals, life-safety educators and others to solve difficult and costly community challenges.
It also helps fund specialized training for firefighters, support programs for burn survivors and training for 800,000 children every year in fire safety and burn prevention practices.
“We are guided by our vision of working with partners and communities to create a world without burns,” he said.
Speaking about Tuesday’s upcoming award, Rentschler said, “It’s a really nice gesture.”
“I don’t set out to win awards, I don’t think any police officer does, but when you receive an award it’s an affirmation, it means people appreciate what you do and recognize the sacrifices we make on a daily basis to provide for the safety and well being of the members of the community,” he said.