Overland Park officer races into burning apartment building, relentlessly trying to rescue woman

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Careless discard of smoking materials is the official cause of a fire that came close to killing a woman in Overland Park.

The fire happened Monday night at the Four Seasons Apartments on 87th Street near Antioch Road.

The woman is in critical condition but survived thanks to firefighters and an Overland Park police officer who put their lives in danger to get her out.

RELATED: One woman critically injured in fire at Overland Park apartment complex

The Overland Park Police Department has only had body cams for 2 or 3 months. Sgt. Tim Tinnin was the first person on scene, and the video his body cam recorded is remarkable.

It shows Tinnin using a battering ram to bust open the door of the apartment, releasing a huge cloud of smoke. With the report of a woman inside, Tinnin reluctantly backed away, coughing and choking from the smoke.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Tinnin tried two more times to get in, once using a fire extinguisher to try and push through the smoke and fire. He called for the fire department to hurry up and prayed there was no one actually inside of the apartment.

Gasping for breath, Tinnin kept at it for more than three minutes until firefighters arrived.

“It's rolling! I can't get up there! I blew the door open but I can't get in. There's too much smoke!” Tinnin told responding firefighters.

It was a desperate feeling, said Overland Park Police Officer John Lacy, who spoke to Tinnen after the fire.

“He felt a little hopeless at the time,” Lacy said. “He knew that someone was inside that he couldn't get inside just due to the fact the smoke was very, very heavy. He couldn't breathe.”

Fire officials said there were no working smoke detectors in the apartment, and smoke builds fast, especially in the first few minutes of a fire.

“And in that amount of time, like when we arrived the other night, there's smoke floor to ceiling," Overland Park Fire Capt. Jason Houghton said. "A lot of heat in the building and making it very, very difficult for someone to try and self-rescue themselves at that point."

Responding firefighters took over the rescue effort, crawling on their hands and knees through the smoke-filled apartment to rescue the woman, found in critical condition from smoke inhalation.

“A smoke detector might have changed everything,” Houghton said. “In all honesty it is frustrating to see how something so simple and how much it could change and affect somebody being saved."

Less then 48 hours later, Overland Park firefighters responded to another fire at 87th and Horton. There were no working smoke detectors there either, but the woman who lives there made it out OK.

All metro fire departments give out smoke detectors for free, even if you're renting your home or apartment. Some departments even install them.

If you have any questions about smoke detectors, how to test them, how to change the batteries or anything else, call your local fire department and they'll be more than happy to help.

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