Three Vandalia officers recognized for heroism in January apartment fire

Vandalia police officers being honored, from left to right: Officer Phillip Shafer, Sgt. Douglas Nagel, and Officer Kristen Thomas. Contributed by City of Vandalia.
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Vandalia police officers being honored, from left to right: Officer Phillip Shafer, Sgt. Douglas Nagel, and Officer Kristen Thomas. Contributed by City of Vandalia.

Three Vandalia police officers were recognized for their actions during an apartment fire on Jan. 9.

The officers are Sgt. Douglas Nagle, Officer Phillip Shafer and Officer Kristen Thomas.

Fire Chief Chad Follick nominated the officers for their role in the apartment fire on West Van Lake Drive. Police officers were the first to arrive that night.

According to the city, Nagle chose to evacuate the entire building, but was unable to use the steps to climb to the third floor of the building because of heavy smoke. To reach the apartment unit on the third floor, he climbed over the railing and pulled himself to the top floor. Once there he pounded on the door to alert the resident inside, and then helped guide her down the steps to safety.

“While in a stressful situation, Sergeant Nagel took exceptional action at great personal risk by scaling a stair rail from the second floor to the third floor to rescue a resident,” the nominating letter said. “Sgt. Nagel was faced with heavy smoke which limited his breathing and vision, climbed the railing without any safety equipment to prevent him from falling, and guided the resident down three flights of stairs through heavy smoke.”

Nagel received the Medal of Valor, which is bestowed upon an officer who, in a stressful situation, takes exceptional action to great personal risk to save the life of another.

The city said Shafer and Thomas recognized the dangerous conditions and worked to evacuate the burning structure. Once the lower floors were evacuated, they stayed in the building to assist Nagle.

Shafer and Thomas received the Distinguished Service Medal, which is given to officers who, in a stressful situation, exercise good judgement or went beyond the call of duty to save the life of another.

Police Chief Kurt Althouse said the actions of all three are commendable “and an example of exceptional service while putting their safety at risk.”

All three members of the Vandalia Division of Police received their medals at Monday’s meeting of Vandalia City Council.