Officers recount attempt to rescue family in fatal Montgomery Co. house fire

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Three officers recount their emotional experience searching for children who ultimately died in a massive house fire in Montgomery County.

Crime scenes and car wrecks are a difficult part of the job, but a call to the 19000 block of Johnson Road near Tamina Friday morning will forever be on the minds of officers who arrived to a house fire.

"This one was really different for me," said Officer C.J. Duenas with the Shenandoah Police Department.

When they arrived, the home was engulfed in flames and a woman was screaming that there were children inside.

"The only thing I really remember is putting my gloves on, asking where they're at and running inside," said Officer Patrick Reade, Duenas' partner.

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Body camera video shows police officers' dramatic rescue attempt at fatal house fire.



Officers Duenas and Reade went in with Officer Henry Richard of Oak Ridge North right behind them. The three searched for rags to put over their faces, something Officer Reade said he learned from his firefighter brother.

"I only made it a couple of steps in before I had to back out, it was intense," Officer Reade said.

"It was a very eerie feeling, a very quiet feeling, in there. I know all I was thinking was try to get to the kids," added Officer Duenas.

Officer Richard tried to get a little below the smoke, but then Officer Duenas noticed the ceiling was about to collapse.

"When we had drawn back and gotten out of the house, and realized if they're in there, it's probably over. There's no words to describe that feeling," said Officer Reade.

But they weren't giving up. Outside, Officer Reade moved a ladder to a second story window. He was able to break the glass, but his hands were burned from the head of the ladder.

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A pastor of a church in Willis and his family were injured with critical burns.



"Until you're actually in that situation there is nothing you can do to prepare for it," he said.

The imagery from their body and dash cameras are forever in their minds, but they say what you were seeing them do wasn't about using their heads.

"What you saw on that body cam from the three officers that went in was simply our heart," said Officer Duenas.

When the fire had taken over the home, they went next door, warning others to get out. It wasn't until later the officers learned the names and ages of the children they were trying to save.

"Loss of life is hard for you as an officer, as a parent, an individual," said Officer Richard.

"When you find out it's kids, I have a son myself, and your heart just sinks," added Officer Reade.

They said they would walk into the burning home again without hesitation, but wish they could change the outcome. The story will always play in their minds, but it's the children who will always be in their hearts.

"I know it's going to stick with me for the rest of my career," said Officer Duenas.

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