COLUMBIA — As they approached the burning house at 200 Oak St., Columbia police officers could hear the sound of a man crying for help. Heavy smoke and flames escaped through the front door, trapping the resident inside.
Officers Lance Bollinger and Steve Wilmoth approached the front door with fire extinguishers, momentarily putting out the flames. Officer Jared Fielding and Wilmoth then rushed inside to answer the cries, quickly moving resident Manuel Douglas to safety. Within a minute, the small fire inside erupted, engulfing the entire house.
On Thursday afternoon, officers Bolinger, Fielding, Wilmoth and Chris Hessenflow were awarded the Meritorious Service Ribbon for their actions the night of June 18. The award is presented to those who have acted above and beyond the call of duty.
“There’s been just a handful of people that’s received this since 1980, so I do think it’s an honor to receive it, especially within my first three years in law enforcement,” Bolinger said. “I think it’s a really nice award and nice achievement.”
Family, friends and colleagues of the officers attended the short ceremony, in which plaques stating their actions were presented to each individual.
“He’s one of my 15 grandkids, so I think a lot of him. We hope he stays safe,” Bolinger’s grandmother, Frankie Bolinger said.
The officers remained modest during their time of recognition, stating they were only doing their job.
“Although it’s a nice gesture, I feel that there’s dozens of officers in this department that do things everyday to positively impact the lives of the people we serve. It’s a nice gesture and an honor,” Hessenflow said.
Despite several attempts, Manuel Douglas could not be reached by the Columbia Police Department to attend Thursday’s ceremony. The cause of the fire has been determined to be from the cooking of pork chops in a fryer that was located next to a couch in the house.