Langley officer fills firefighting boots

When Langley Police Officer Corey Mills went on duty Nov. 21, he had no idea he would also assume the role of a firefighter.

At approximately 8:45 p.m. that night while patrolling downtown Langley, Mills received the dispatch call stating that there was a house fire in progress at 752 Suzanne Court. The first to respond to the call, Mills would quickly realize how handy the fire extinguisher in his patrol car was.

Daniel Partney — a tenant who was renting the house — had pulled a burning child’s mattress onto the back porch before Mills arrived. According to the Langley Police Department and Fire District 3, children playing with a lighter had set it aflame.

“I could see flames coming out the back of the house,” Mills said.

After pulling up to the one-story house, he entered and went from smoke-filled room to smoke-filled room, and checked to make sure no one was inside. Crawling on his hands and knees, Mills found the bedroom where the fire had started and used his extinguisher to put out fires on the carpet.

Eventually, he made it to the back porch of the house and, using an extinguisher given to him by a neighbor, put out the flames on the mattress, which had started to spread to the wood porch.

Donald Elliot, a division chief for Fire District 3 who responded to the fire call, said the mattress fire was typical of other fires he has seen. Once pulled outside into an oxygen-rich environment, a mattress will practically explode with flame.

“Mattress fires are funny,” he said.

By the time Elliott arrived at the house, Mills had extinguished all the flames.

Mills said that while it is not a police officer’s job to crawl through a burning house, he said he could not stand outside and watch, not knowing whether anyone was inside.

Elliott, who is a career firefighter, said he was not surprised to find out Mills had rushed into the house.

“Human instinct tells you to do it,” he said.

Darin Reid, the special services chief for FD3, said he was concerned for Mills’ health and safety when he heard about the incident. But he was happy to hear the fire had been extinguished before it had grew into a larger fire.

“They did the job for us,” Reid said of the Langley Police Department. “The quicker we can get the fire out the better everything’s going to be.”

Mills should be recognized for putting himself in danger and protecting the residents of Langley, Reid said. However, he doesn’t want that recognition to encourage untrained people to run into burning houses.

“That’s a heroic call on their behalf,” he said.

In an interview this week, Mills said he was worried there might be people in the house when he arrived.

“I was definitely not thinking of myself,” he said, noting that after he incident his face was black with soot and that he had breathed in quite a bit of smoke.

According to a Langley Police Department report, the cause of the fire was a cigarette lighter lighter that fell into the wrong little hands. Two girls, ages 3 and 5, who were living in the house at the time of the fire, are believed to have started the fire in a bedroom with the lighter.

The home’s renter, Daniel Partney, was transported to Whidbey General Hospital for treatment for burns he received on his legs while removing the mattress from the bedroom, according to FD3’s Donald Elliot.

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