Jim Flemming, with the Truro Police Service, said the force is “very proud” of the actions of Const. Robert Hunka, who entered a building full of smoke to rescue an elderly woman.
“It was exceptional what he did,” said Flemming. “Especially because it wasn’t a fire call right off the bat, so he wasn’t expecting all the smoke.”
The call came in at 1:43 a.m. Thursday about a woman yelling and screaming from an apartment building on Lyman Street. Const. Hunka attended the rear of the building in relation to a female in distress, with assistance coming from Cpl. Monte Emery and Const. Karen DeGroot.
“Once on scene, I was met by a resident who stated that an elderly female was in the rear apartment calling for help,” Hunka wrote in his general report after the incident. “I could hear the female yelling ‘help’ and coughing faintly. I announced ‘Truro Police’ and knocked on the door, however no further response was heard.
“I could smell what appeared to be smoke coming from under the door and the doorknob appeared to be warm.”
Hunka wrote that he forcibly entered the locked apartment by kicking the door, “due to the threat of grievous bodily harm or death.”
The thick black smoke, said Hunka, “immediately took my breath away” and made his eyes burn. He could hear the woman coughing.
“I stepped outside and took a deep breath and proceeded within the apartment,” he wrote. “The smoke was so thick I had to continue to hold my breath and use the wall for guidance.”
Hunka found the woman at the back of the apartment, curled up on the floor.
“I then proceeded to lift the female as she could not stand and put her on my shoulders.”
Using the wall again for guidance, Hunka made his way outside the building with the woman.
Flemming said, in talking with the other officers that attended the scene, Hunka’s actions saved the woman’s life.
“The officers said the woman would have been seriously injured, if not worse, by the time the fire department arrived,” he said.
While someone else may hesitate to enter a burning building unequipped with fire gear, Flemming said it is something officers do on occasion when the need arises.
“It is fairly rare. I’ve been here for 33 years and have only been in two situations like that. The heavy smoke does overpower you, but it is something we will tell our officers to do,” he said.
Truro Fire Service Chief Blois Currie said it is “undetermined” where the fire started in the building.
The woman was treated by paramedics before being transported to the Colchester East Hants Health Centre, and later released.