Showing bravery in the face of certain danger
It began with a domestic violence call during an early Tuesday morning in mid-September.
Crook County Deputy Mitch Madden responded, but since he was the only patrol deputy on duty, Prineville Police Office James Young came to assist.
"Domestic violence calls are very dangerous for one officer to handle," Madden remarks.
Halfway to Lakeshore RV Park, a mobile home neighborhood near Ochoco Reservoir, the situation changed. Dispatch notified them that the 30-foot travel trailer was now on fire.
Madden was first to arrive on scene and saw black smoke billowing out of the trailer. A large crowd watched in horror, yelling for Frank, who was still inside.
"I did the same thing while trying to find a way into the trailer to get him out," Madden recalls.
He wasn't alone in that effort. Young had not yet arrived, but 25-year-old Michael Stuhr, a nearby neighbor, was ready to help.
"I remember everybody freaking out, and I heard the commotion, so I went out," Stuhr remembers.
Before much more time had passed, he was asking Madden if he could help pry open the front door, which was swollen shut from the heat of the fire.
Once the two men pried the door open, they encountered a wall of flames. By then, Young had arrived on scene. Having pulled two fire extinguishers from his car, he tossed one to Madden, who quickly used it to douse the nearby flames. He shouted again for Frank.
"I could faintly hear him but wasn't able to determine where he was at in the trailer," he said.
Young and Stuhr then headed for the back door, where they once again had to pry open the door. The two knocked down nearby flames with a fire extinguisher and entered the trailer. Stuhr then jumped into a smoke-filled bedroom where he found Frank laying on the floor unconscious. He pulled him to the doorway where Madden and Young helped drag him out of the trailer.
Law enforcement officials would later learn that Frank Young and his wife of 43 years had gotten into a domestic dispute, during which the wife suffered minor facial injuries. Frank had then intentionally set fire to the trailer to kill himself and his wife. She had managed to escape the trailer and ran to a neighboring home for help.
Following his rescue from the fire, Frank was taken to the local hospital then later flown to Legacy Burn Center in Portland. He succumbed to his injuries the next day.
Though Frank passed away, Crook County Sheriff John Gautney and Undersheriff James Savage felt the heroism of Madden, Young and Stuhr should be rewarded, and they nominated the three men for the Oregon State Sheriff's Association's Distinguished Action Award.
"The quick actions and bravery of Deputy Madden, Officer Young and Michael Stuhr prevented a certain death of Frank Young," Gautney said. "Although he later died from his injuries, the effort that was made to save him, placing themselves in harm's way, was above and beyond the call of duty."
Madden and Young, who were surprised and honored to receive the award, were recognized during the OSSA Annual Conference Banquet held at the Riverhouse Events Center in Bend on Dec. 5. Their actions were read aloud to the banquet guests and other recipients of Distinguished Action Awards throughout the state.
"That whole event was great," Young remarked. "When they read what you have done out there in front of everybody, if there was a reflection point, that's honestly when it happened."
Stuhr was unable to attend the banquet but was later presented with his award during a Jan. 9 Crook County Court meeting. A recap of his actions were read aloud by Gautney, after which Stuhr received a round of applause from people in attendance and a handshake from each member of the county court.
Reflecting on what happened that September morning, Stuhr shrugs and says that most of it is a blur.
"I don't really recall too much. I just had an adrenaline rush and went to work," he said. "I would do it again for anybody."
His sentiments are not unlike those of Young and Madden, whose jobs regularly involve helping people in emergency situations. Young points out that the extensive training they receive helps them react swiftly and properly in emergency situations.
"I didn't really think twice about it," he said.
"We were just doing what we signed up to do," added Madden. "I was just doing my job and doing what I love to do."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.