SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT (ASSIST POLICE)
Late in the evening on Sunday, August 27, 2006, Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers were dispatched to provide lighting to assist Lawrence Township police as they searched the area around Veterans Park for a man wanted for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
It was 11:28 p.m. when Mercer County Central Communications Center toned out Station 22 for the special assignment.
Lawrence police requested that all Station 22 apparatus – Rescue 22, Telesquirt 22, and Engine 22 – respond, even if the rigs were short on manpower. Police also asked that firefighters bring with them as many handlights and thermal imaging cameras as they could.
Chief Wayne Hannon responded at 11:31 p.m., followed by Rescue 22 at 11:34 p.m., and then Telesquirt 22 at 11:35 p.m. and Engine 22 at 11:39 p.m.
Rescue 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Byrd, driven by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr., and crewed by Ff. Steven Hodgdon and Ff. Evan Kutzin.
Telesquirt 22 was commanded by Ff. Charles Commini Jr. and driven by Ff. Charles Commini Sr.
Engine 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, driven by Ff. John Fleming, and crewed by Ff. R.J. Laird.
Deputy Chief Chris Pangaldi also responded in Car 22-1, but did not sign on radio.
Initially, all Station 22 firefighters took up a staging position at the intersection of Oaklyn Terrace and Birchwood Knoll and gave police officers their portable lights and thermal imagers.
Firefighters were informed that police believed they had the domestic violence suspect cornered in the woods adjacent to Veterans Park. Township officers, aided by state troopers with a search dog, were planning to search the woods.
After a short time, Rescue 22 was relocated to the parking lot of Veterans Park, where its telescopic light tower was raised to illuminate that end of the woods. Telesquirt 22 was sent to use its lights on the woods at Birchwood Knoll and Windwood Road, while Engine 22 was sent to light up the woods from the parking lot of the VFW Post on Review Avenue.
Police officers accompanied each apparatus to guard the firefighters, who were told to stay on their rigs at all times for their own safety.
Heavily-armed police officers and the state police K-9 unit searched the woods but were unable to find the suspect.
By 1:15 a.m. police concluded that the suspect had escaped and the search was called off.
All Station 22 units were released and were back in quarters by 1:21 a.m.