AKRON, Ohio - Two Akron police officers risked their lives to save a man from a house fire just before 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
Officers Chris Crockett and Derrick Jackson arrived on the scene about five minutes before fire crews at 1922 Adelaide Boulevard. A 911 caller had reported that a man was not leaving the house.
Jackson, a rookie officer, was first inside the home and could hear 44-year-old Herbert Friedlein coughing, but couldn't locate him.
"It was dark. Smoke was everywhere. I was trying to get on the ground as low as possible to try to see someone. I couldn't see anything still. There was so much smoke going on," Jackson said.
For Jackson, who served as a Marine reservist in Afghanistan, the mission to save Friedlein was personal because the officer lives just one street away from the victim.
"It was a little weird coming into my neighborhood. Actually, I could see my house from his house."
However, Jackson couldn't find Friedlein and the smoke continued to billow. Officer Crockett told Jackson to get out of the burning home and grabbed a secret weapon — a gas mask usually reserved for meth investigations.
Crockett put it on, giving him more "breathability," and found Friedlein lying on a first-floor hallway.
"I could actually feel him. I actually kicked him with my feet and I could hear him breathing very shallow," Crockett said.
Crockett dragged the man by his pants outside to safety.
Moments later, firefighters arrived and took over treatment of Friedlein.
He was transported to Summa Akron City Hospital in stable condition and later transferred to the burn unit at Akron Children's Hospital. His condition was not available on Tuesday, but officers said he was being treated for smoke inhalation.
Akron Fire Captain Al Bragg said it appeared the blaze started when a pile of clothing caught fire in the basement, but it's not clear if the blaze was accidental or intentional.
Both police officers are happy with the outcome, but are not comfortable being called heroes.
"I'm not a hero. It's my job. The city pays me to do this kind of stuff," Jackson said.
"We want to go home at the end of the day, but again, we took this job to save lives," Crockett added.