Off-duty fireman first to respond to Pleasant Valley apartment blaze

He entered burning building, evacuated residents

PLEASANT VALLEY, Mo. - An off-duty fireman was the first to respond to an apartment blaze in Pleasant Valley Sunday morning, entering the burning building and helping occupants to escape while using his personal fire extinguisher to try to knock down the flames.

Mitch Bolin, who is a volunteer for the Fishing River Fire Department and a professional with the Claycomo Fire Department, was driving on Interstate 35 about 7:30 a.m. Sunday when he saw smoke from a fire in an apartment building in the 8200 block of Pence Road.

Bolin pulled off the highway and saw that the two-story, four-unit apartment building was on fire and that no fire apparatus had yet arrived. So he pulled a fire extinguisher from his vehicle and shot it through a broken window into one apartment, trying to knock down the flames. Bolin was unable to completely extinguish the blaze, he said, so he entered the building and led a woman living on the second floor down the stairs to safety.

Bolin said he then went to the other side of the building and evacuated a man and woman from their apartment.

Soon, on-duty firefighters from Kansas City, Mo., Claycomo and Pleasant Valley arrived to take over the fight from Bolin. Pleasant Valley Assistant Fire Chief Alan Heyne said five people were treated for smoke inhalation and two apartments were heavily damaged in the blaze. The cause is still under investigation, Heyne said.

Claycomo Fire Chief Dave Callaway praised Bolin.

"He's a good firefighter," Callaway said.

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