A courageous police officer who ran into a burning block of flats with no protective equipment and helped save two men hanging from their window on the 16th floor has been nominated for the National Police Bravery Awards 2023.
On the 25 September last year, police received a call in the early hours stating someone had sadly died after falling from a flat window in Bristol and that a fire had broken out.
PC Justin Robbie was first on scene and knew he had to act fast to help evacuate the occupants of the flats, who could be heard shouting for help.
With more than 100 flats, it was unknown how many were occupied or how many persons were within the tower block at this time.
Flames could be seen coming out of the window on the 16th floor, and PC Robbie swiftly directed other officers to stop entry into the block of flats, while he went into the building to evacuate residents, establish the exact location of the fire and to formulate a plan.
When he opened the fire door next to the flat which was on fire he was hit by thick smoke and heat which physically knocked him back.
Remaining calm under pressure, he quickly closed the door and proceeded to evacuate the rest of the flats on that floor, those of which he could physically access.
Meanwhile, two men were hanging from the outside of their flat window. Upon hearing their screams for help, PC Robbie looked out of the hallway window and could see large flames billowing out from their flat as they were holding on. Below them was a sheer drop and they had nowhere else to go, had they fallen they would have died.
PC Robbie was joined by a fire officer, and they used bolt croppers to remove a grate which was covering a window on the landing on the floor below.
The window was made of several, reinforced glass panes, which PC Robbie had to first smash using his baton, so the fire officer could kick out the rest of the glass and pull the men who were above them down to safety.
Mark Loker, Avon and Somerset Police Federation chair, said: “PC Robbie was first on scene to some very distressing sights whereby unfortunately one male had fallen to his death. But Justin remained calm, communicated his actions clearly and worked quickly under extreme pressure with the fire and rescue service, successfully preventing further loss of life.
“He put his life in danger by entering the burning building without any breathing apparatus or fire protection equipment which was a selfless act of courage and deserving of recognition.”
Chief Constable Sarah Crew, Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Police officers and staff encounter difficult and often harrowing situations on a daily basis and regularly put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the public.
“However, running into a burning building with the knowledge someone has already tragically died in order to save others is an act of true heroism.
“PC Robbie remained calm in a highly dangerous situation and together with a firefighter worked swiftly and efficiently to rescue two men.
“While someone very sadly lost their life in the fire, had PC Robbie not shown such courage and selflessness the tragedy could have been even worse.
“I’m extremely proud to have someone of PC Robbie’s character and professionalism working for Avon and Somerset Police – his actions on that night exemplify the very best of British policing.”