BUCKSPORT — Monday, April 10, 2017, was just another day when Bucksport first responders received a call about a structure fire at a house on Central Street.
Detective Sgt. David Winchester was already on the road when he heard the call, so he was first to arrive on the scene.
“PD [Police Department] guys are already out on the road, so a lot of times we beat the Fire Department to it because they’re getting geared up,” Winchester said. “I just happened to be first there and I went up the driveway and I could see smoke coming out of the basement.”
Winchester saw someone entering cellar doors into the basement of the house with smoke coming out around him.
The detective grabbed a fire extinguisher, entered the basement and found the man standing there.
“Flames were going up the wall and across the ceiling, so I just grabbed him and threw him out the door,” he said.
Winchester then used the extinguisher to put out most of the flames, but when he left the basement he heard the voice of another person in the house.
“So then he went back, even though the fire had rekindled at that point,” said Bucksport Police Chief Sean Geagan.
Winchester brought the second person out of the house, by which time the Fire Department had arrived and could fully knock down the fire and ventilate the smoky basement.
“If he hadn’t done what he had, the end result would have been drastically different,” Geagan said. “There was a possibility of losing a human life and maybe losing part of that structure.”
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Susan Lessard announced that, because of his actions last April, Winchester was selected to receive an award for bravery from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He will receive the award at an association meeting in South Portland on Feb. 9.
“It is notable that these awards have gone to members of the Bucksport fire and police departments for the past three years,” Lessard said.
Geagan, who is president of the Maine Chiefs of Police this year, said the association has a committee that votes on who receives the awards for acts of bravery or life-saving.
“This happens quite a bit,” the chief said about the actions of first responders such as Winchester. “It doesn’t go unnoticed, but we don’t really advertise it, so this night is a really special night.”
Geagan said the February banquet usually attracts about 80 to 100 guests from police and fire departments across the state, as well as a few everyday citizens who are honored for their courage.
The chief said he and Bucksport firefighter John Gavelek have received life-saving awards over the past few years. In 2015, Bucksport police officer Dan Harlan, who now works for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Bucksport Fire Chief Craig Bowden and Maine State Police Lt. Rod Charette each received a life-saving award for attempting to save a 5-year-old boy from drowning in the Penobscot River.