ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – An off-duty Plant City Police officer and Pasco Firefighters saved two boys, who are both autistic and non-verbal, from a burning home.
On Wednesday, June 23, 2022, just before 8:30 PM, Pasco County Fire Rescue 911 operators received a call that a home on Doe Path Court in Zephyrhills was on fire with reports of children trapped inside.
Investigators say that Officer Michal Pietrusinski of the Plant City Police Department lives in the area and was out for an evening walk when he noticed smoke coming from his neighbor’s home.
Moments later, Officer Pietrusinski heard the screams of a frantic mother running to the house with one of her children, a daughter who is autistic but does communicate verbally.
Officer Michal Pietrusinski was aware of the mother’s two additional autistic and non-verbal boys that may be trapped inside the home. He immediately sprang into action.
Officer Pietrusinski and fiance Sharon Navarro located a garden hose and quickly approached the home’s front door.
The couple entered the home and was met with thick smoke causing them to get on the floor to avoid being overcome. While crawling low with one hand, Officer Pietrusinski was spraying water on a couch fully engulfed in flames. He also called out to the boys, “if you can hear me, come towards my voice.”
Officer Pietrusinski didn’t hear anything, so he located a tee-shirt, soaked it in water, and placed the wet shirt over his mouth to help him breathe. At that point, he began systematically searching the home, looking for the boys.
After several attempts to locate the trapped children and needing to retreat due to the overwhelming smoke, he could identify one of the boys standing within the home. Officer Pietrusinski quickly took the boy outside to his mother.
Knowing how quickly the fire was growing, Officer Pietrusinski asked the mother if she had any idea where the third child would be. With a tip, Officer Pietrusinski attempted to enter the home again. At this point, the fire grew much larger, and Officer Pietrusinski attempted to extinguish more of the flames as Pasco County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene.
When Firefighters arrived on the scene, they reported heavy smoke inside the home. Firefighters from Engine 16 quickly exited the truck and entered the house to locate the child that was reported missing.
While firefighters were searching for the child, Officer Pietrusinski notified paramedics of the first child he pulled from inside the home, and they began to perform a medical assessment.
“Thankfully, the first child removed from the house was cleared of any medical issues on the scene by Pasco County Fire Rescue Paramedics,” according to officials.
Engine 16, led by Captain Craig Harris with Firefighter Timothy McCormick and Probationary Firefighter Joshua Casal, quickly located the missing child in a bathroom shower with the water running and dense smoke.
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Firefighters requested a medical helicopter transport for the child.
“Thankfully, the child pulled from the home was conscious and breathing, but paramedics flew the child in an abundance of caution due to their smoke inhalation,” officials said.
Officer Pietrusinski was also evaluated on the scene for smoke inhalation and was transported by ambulance for evaluation.
“We are grateful and happy to report that both have been released from the hospital,” said Pasco Fire Rescue.
Pietrusinski is new officer with the Plant City Police Department and was sworn in as an officer at their June 10, 2022, ceremony as part of the department’s new officer sponsorship program.
Officer Pietrusinski is a Polish immigrant who served 7.5 years in the U.S. Navy and four years as a Search and Rescue Swimmer.
“Pasco County Fire Rescue is proud of the brave actions of Officer Pietrusinski, firefighters from engine 16, and all others on the scene that day, who gave it all to save two children,” said PCFR.