CASEYVILLE — The quick thinking of a police officer is credited for potentially saving the lives of the residents of a home at 730 S. Main St.
Officer Andrew Schuler, 24, and a two-year veteran of the Caseyville Police Department, was on patrol about 11 p.m. on Illinois 157 when he smelled something suspicious.
"I thought I could smell fire," Schuler said. "And not the smell of a fire when leaves are burning. But the smell of a fire like when a car or a house is on fire. So I looked up on the east side of the road and I could see flames shooting up 20 feet. I thought it was a bonfire at first. But when I got closer, I could see the fire was coming from the side of the house at the gas line."
Schuler said he saw cars in the driveway and knew people were likely inside. So he ran up the steep hill of the driveway banged on the door with no immediate response.
"Finally someone came to the door and said, 'What do you want?'" Schuler said. "I said I was a police officer and that the house was on fire. He looked at me like I was crazy. So I grabbed him by his arm, pulled him out and said, 'Look, your house is on fire' and showed him the flames."
Schuler said, because the gas line was involved in the blaze, he was afraid the house was going to explode -- so he hustled the occupant and his friend out of the home along with a 10-week-old puppy.
"It was pretty scary there for a few minutes," Schuler said. "You could hear a hiss from the gas line. I told the dispatcher that this could be bad news really quick."
Fortunately firefighters arrived quickly, put out the flames and saved the house. Schuler said one of them should get as much credit as he does for safely ending the tense situation.
Schuler said volunteer firefighter Gerard Scott charged up to the burning house that was still leaking gas and used a meter wrench to shut off the fuel and make sure things didn't get out of hand.
"He was able to get the gas shut off at least 15 minutes before Ameren workers could get to the scene," Schuler said. "And a lot of bad things can happen in 15 minutes."
No one answered the door at the house when a reporter went to the door Tuesday. The police report with the victim's names was not available.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.