Allard honored for rescuing 2 people from house fire
Mineral County Undersheriff Wayne Cashman, right, and Sheriff Mike Toth, center, congratulate AJ Allard, left, at a ceremony to present him with an award for rescuing two people in a house fire near Superior. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
AJ Allard, center, is surrounded by his family during a ceremony that was held in his honor at the Mineral County Commissioners Conference Room last week. Allard, all alone, ran into a burning house near superior and rescued 2 people that would have perished. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
Mineral Independent | August 10, 2022 12:00 AM
On the evening of July 25 at approximately 10:20 p.m., AJ Allard noticed a structure on fire on Thompson Creek Road.
Montana Department of Justice agent Allard and his wife and their four oldest children were on I-90 east when he spotted a possible flame in the trees.
With his years of experience as a deputy with the MCSO, he knew that this didn’t necessitate a call to 911 but needed a look-see to what might be happening.
“I’ve been on a ton of structure fires and this didn’t look like one, at least from what I glanced, and I knew burning was closed so as I was going to the exit in Superior, I called Ryan (Funke) as I knew he was on shift and asked if he knew of a fire reported in the Peters Flats area,” Allard explained.
Sgt. Funke and Allard worked together for the MCSO for several years and remain in touch which is how Allard knew he was working that night and he’d know if a fire had been reported. Funke wasn’t aware of a fire report so Allard said since he was almost there, he’d go look and see if someone might be burning brush.
“So, I went up Thompson Creek and when I went over the railroad tracks, I could see the flames about 20 feet over the top of the house. I was still on the phone with Ryan and said it was a structure fire,” shared Allard.
He could hear Funke advising dispatch and getting EMS and the department notified and he informed Allard that he was minutes away from the scene. He started down the driveway and noticed a downed power line that was arcing with big blue flashes and Allard’s first-hand experience took over as he noticed one vehicle in front of the house with nobody around which was a strong indication that people were still inside.
He still had Funke on the phone and informed him of the situation and said he was going to have to go inside to check the condition.
“I took my family back up the driveway and then had my wife take the driver’s seat and I told her to take the kids to a big turnout just past the tracks to wait. I didn’t want the vehicle to block emergency vehicles but mainly it was about my four kids. They know what I do for a living but I didn’t want them to see me going into a burning house. It’s different when they are at home and hearing what happened at work than being with dad when he’s doing something dangerous.”
Allard said that the training and experience he had while a deputy with the MCSO was invaluable and that he trusted Funke explicitly from working some nasty calls together. He knew the fire and ambulance teams arriving would be informed and coordinated by Funke which would allow him to focus on knowing what he had to do next.
“When you sign up to do this job you know that human life is precious, even if it comes to the expense of your own,” he said.
He’d been helping a friend work on his tractor earlier in the day so he had gloves and made a beeline to the front door yelling if anyone could hear him, but no response.
“So, I pushed in the front door which opened into a larger room that was thick with smoke. If you’ve ever been around a structure fire, it’s a different type of smoke than a campfire. It’s just black and thick. I couldn’t see very well but the room was bright and obviously hot and still after yelling and not hearing anything, it was just by providence that I got down low where the oxygen is.”
Allard said every smoke alarm in the house was going off, and the sound of the fire and the power line arching made the horrible conditions even worse. But he saw a door, remained low and when he opened it, he could see someone in the bed. He yelled which awoke the female who started yelling and asking what was happening.
Allard said she was in shock but he had to get her across the living room so he scooped her up and ran out the front door and told her to go across the lawn to safety. She said there was another person in the room so Allard went back and the male was up by now but confused and Allard helped him out to the front door also.
The woman thought her son was still in the house but the male said his vehicle wasn’t there so no, he was not home.
Funke was now on the scene and they moved the vehicle from the front of the house and the couple to safety just as the first fire engine arrives on scene from the Superior Volunteer Fire Department.
“What people don’t realize that this is a volunteer fire department with the people responding from their home, but they were there so fast that I was surprised at their arrival time. And these guys are professional and know their job!” Allard smiled. “EMS and other fire engines all showed up and they had that fire out in about 10 minutes. I was very thankful and very impressed as I was amazed at how fast they were. It made me proud to be a part of this community with how everyone worked. I mean Ryan, the dispatchers, the ambulance service, the fire department. Everything working in conjunction was very amazing to see. Those guys deserve recognition as well for everything that they did.”
Allard and the two occupants of the house were treated for minor smoke inhalation and released.
“His actions on July 25 saved the life of both occupants,” Sheriff Mike Toth said in a press release. “Without the Bravery/Heroism of AJ Allard, the outcome would have been very different that day.”
On August 3 at the Mineral County Courthouse, AJ Allard’s heroics earned him a Lifesaving Award presented by Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth, where over 30 members of his family and coworkers applauded his deed.
“You don’t do it for the awards and accolades. It’s nice to be recognized but it’s also a weird feeling to have all of the attention,” Allard said.