Metropolitan Police Federation

Officers who risked their lives to rescue families from a blazing residential block nominated for The National Police Bravery Awards

Two Metropolitan Police Officers who risked their lives to rescue families from a blazing residential block have been nominated for The National Police Bravery Awards.

Insp Toby Walton and Acting Sgt Owen Schutt were on patrol in Harrow on 7 March last year at around 6.30pm when they saw the flames bellowing from the block of flats in Cranleigh Gardens.

The officers could see terrified families at the windows of their homes and ran to the scene to help get them out of the building.

Their body worn footage shows how they had to use fire extinguishers to smash their way into the ground floor of the block.

The officers tried in vain to gain access to the now white-hot first floor of the building despite trying to kick the access doors in.

A member of the public ran home and fetched an axe which the officers used to break down doors and alert residents to the horrific situation.

The officers forced their way into the flats and ran from door to door raising the alarm before hurrying residents to safety.

Eventually the London Fire Brigade teams arrived on the scene. They quickly got the blaze under control, with only minor damage to the flats.

All the residents were safely evacuated, and some were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation by paramedics at the scene.

The two officers were also treated at the scene after breathing in large amounts of smoke.

Insp Walton rewarded himself with a Cadbury’s crème egg back at the station but was told off by his fiancée for putting himself at risk.

Asked if he would race into a burning building again, he said: “Yes. Afterwards, I got a big telling off from the fiancée. But what we did is not really something you think about.”

He added: “The community were exceptional; they didn’t have to help us … but did.”

“I saw one woman at her bedroom window. I knew she had a kid. There were three others who also had children.

“Owen and I went to the first floor and couldn’t get in, even when we tried to kick the door in.

“Then we went to the ground floor. We used a fire extinguisher to smash the door, and I asked people for help.

“A very helpful member of the public went home and brought an axe back. Within 10 seconds of going through the door, I was hit by the smoke.

“Every breath I took peppered my lungs. It was really horrible.”

A tumble dryer in a spa beneath the flats had caught light igniting the blaze.

Acting Sgt Schutt said the thought that went through their minds was “let’s just get these people out as soon as possible. I’m not going to wait for the fire brigade. Just get in there, get people out”.

He added: “The flames that were jumping were pretty intense… There was an elderly gentleman in his dressing gown that needed some help, and a mum and her baby looking very confused. I did shout at them a little, asked them to leave, don’t grab things, just go.”

He said it was rewarding to have gotten the people out – but humbly said it is “embarrassing being recognised”. Acting Sgt Schutt concluded: “It did just feel a bit like we were just doing what we should have been doing.”

Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman Ken Marsh said the officers had continued the great tradition of Metropolitan Police officers running towards danger.

“It goes without saying just how proud we are of Owen and Toby,” he said. “These officers could see a terrified woman and children at the window of the flats and knew they had to help there and then.

“I dread to think what the consequences would have been for that family and many others had they not acted as quickly as they did.

“Very simply, they saved lives and are a great credit to the Metropolitan Police. It shows once again how police officers are much more than crime fighters.”

As part of the National Police Bravery Awards, Insp Walton and Acting Sgt Schutt will attend a reception and an evening awards ceremony in London in December.

The National Police Bravery Awards honour officers from across England and Wales who have performed outstanding acts of bravery while on or off duty.

The awards are sponsored by Police Mutual.