Pa. cop credits training, teamwork after rescuing 3 from house fire

Officer Joe Spalick acted on pure adrenaline when he helped rescue three people from a fully engulfed house fire this week

By Tawnya Panizzi
The Tribune-Review, Greensburg

MILLVALE, Pa. — Millvale police Officer Joe Spalick acted on pure adrenaline when he helped rescue three people from a fully engulfed house fire Monday afternoon.

"I was the first one on the scene, and I instantly saw the front porch in flames and thick black smoke all through the house," Spalick said of the incident at 301 William St., where homes are perched on a steep hillside.

"I couldn't run up the steps because the fire was already shooting out but the neighbors were yelling that they thought three people were inside."

Spalick darted up the neighbor's steps and ran to the back of the house where he found two teens and a cat that had escaped to the backyard. He ushered them to safety and ran back to help their mother, who was frantically running in and out of the house looking for her purse and medication, he said.

"You think you have time to collect your belongings but you don't realize how serious it is," said Spalick, 25, a Shaler Area School District graduate. "You don't realize what's happening to your house and that it could collapse any second."

Emergency services began rolling up, one after the other, until engines filled the street. Crews from Millvale, Cherry City, Sharpsburg, O'Hara, Bellevue, Ross, Shaler and Aspinwall responded. Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services also assisted.

Firefighters were able to knock down the blaze before it spread to neighboring homes, Millvale fire Chief Karl Cavanaugh said.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal is investigating the cause and will determine a damage estimate.

Two firefighters were injured, one with burns and another with a a twisted ankle. The burned firefighter was transported to a hospital while the other was treated at the scene.

Millvale police Chief Tim Komoroski said both were recovering at home Tuesday.

No other injuries were reported.

Komoroski lauded the efforts by Spalick, a fledgling officer who graduated from the Police Academy in August 2020 and joined the department the following month.

"He did a great job, as they all did," Komoroski said. "It takes a group effort. Luckily in a small town, a lot of our emergency service members are in town and they're on the scene in moments."

Spalick said Monday's fire was the most dramatic call in his seven months on the squad, and he is grateful for extensive training at the academy and on the job.

"All the first responders did a great job," he said. "I've seen fires before, but when it came to something as serious as this one, where people's lives were in danger and you knew the house could come down, it's a different situation."


A message from the Chief of Police... Millvale experienced a very bad house fire in our town yesterday afternoon. The...

Posted by Millvale Borough Police Department on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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