Officials: Deputy Sheriff ran into burning, collapsing house.
By James McGinnis Staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Superheroes in the comic books rarely have to fight the damsel in distress who’s trapped in the burning building. Yet a Bucks County Sheriff’s deputy is being honored for doing just that on a cold afternoon last December as an engulfed single-family home collapsed
around him. James Mitchell received a commendation last week from the Bucks County commissioners after a dramatic rescue inside a home off Route 413 in Bristol Township. A 14-year member of the sheriff’s department, Mitchell brushed off any talk
of heroism that day. He frankly described the events of that afternoon in terms of a job that needed to get done. The Penndel resident said he was on duty, serving court papers in the Bristol Gardens neighborhood, when a fire was reported just blocks away.
“As I was pulling up, I informed county (radio) that I could see a woman running around to the back of the house,” he said. “By the time I got around to the back, she had run into the house. I could see that smoke was coming out from every window and every door. I ran in after her. “As I grabbed her, she began fighting me,” he continued. “She didn’t want to come out. She kept screaming that someone was inside the house. She kept trying to go back in. The second floor began collapsing around us. If it had have been
two seconds later, the roof would have hit us both.” Mitchell said the woman was convinced that her friend was trapped inside the
house. But the friend was later discovered to be next door with a neighbor, he said. No one was seriously injured in the blaze, officials said. Three months later, the home on Wynnefield Court remains a burnt shell surrounded by trash and torched furniture. The burnt pages of the John Grisham novel “Skipping Christmas” lay strewn about the front lawn. Neighbors said they knew of no way to contact the former residents and no one answered the phone number listed for the house. Mitchell said he had not heard
from anyone following the rescue. Mitchell is one of 54 deputies with the Bucks County Sheriff’s Office and assigned to serve court papers, eviction notices and warrants in areas of Bristol and Levittown. At any given time, there are about 15 deputies
dispatched to different zones of the county, said Sheriff Edward “Duke” Donnelly. “When they’re out there, it’s primarily to serve court papers, but we can and often do act as back up for police departments when needed,” Donnelly added. Mitchell said he’s convinced that any other deputy in his department would have run into that burning building last December. “I’m not a hero,” he said. “If I was working at Wawa and ran into a burning building, then I think that would be more heroic. But I’m a sheriff’s deputy and this is part of the job.”