More than a dozen first responders honored for life-saving efforts at KOP fire

Jim Melwert
February 21, 2020 - 1:50 pm
As many as 15 people, including an EMT and several police officers, were hurt when a fire tore through this building in King of Prussia.

Mike Dougherty/KYW Newsradio

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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Upper Merion Township supervisors honored 14 firefighters, police officers and dispatchers for their life-saving efforts at a huge fire that ripped through a King of Prussia apartment complex last month. 

Several Upper Merion police officers were first to arrive and ran into the burning Kingswood Apartment Complex on the night of Jan. 29.

Bodycam video from Upper Merion Police officer Andrew Kohler obtained by NBC10 shows the flames lashing out of the third floor, then Kohler and several other officers running in to help get people out.

"It definitely shows the magnitude of that fire, how dangerous that call was, how dangerous those types of situations are," Upper Merion Police Capt. Jeremy Johnson said.

"When you go into a burning building like that, and that smoke envelopes you, it quickly becomes disorienting. You can’t see, you can’t breathe, and it’s very easy to start to panic."

Lt. Paul Cooper was on his way home when he heard the call. He turned around and headed to the scene.

Related: As many as 15 injured in King of Prussia apartment fire

Even outside of the building, he said, the smoke was so thick it was hard to breathe. 

"I've been a police officer for 25 years. It was by far the worst fire call I've been to," Cooper said. 

"The situation to me? I was amazed there wasn’t a fatality in that fire, because the fire moved that quickly."

Johnson says they are just doing their jobs, but it is nice to see the township recognize the ones who risked their lives to save others — "not only our officers, but the firefighters and the ambulance crew. So it was a great job by everyone and we appreciate the recognition."

The individuals honored by the township supervisors include Sgt. David Gershanick; officers Susan Bednar, Jennifer Emrich, Andrew Kohler, Michael Loane, Evan Meoli, Troy Nicholson, Andrew Scavicchio and Nicholas Vuotto; firefighter William Helenski; paramedics Steven Devenney and Eli Metzgar; and dispatchers Jeffrey Houseal and Shelly Kontra.

Five police officers and one paramedic were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, along with eight residents who needed treatment.