HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Three Horry County Police Officers are being called heroes after they each took a part in ensuring residents of the Windsor Green condominium complex were out of their homes safely Saturday. The fire torched 26 homes, but no human deaths were reported.
Lance Corporal Keith Massey, Patrolman First Class Joseph Manjarrez and Patrolman First Class Christopher Cestare were among the first, first responders to go inside the complex as it was ablaze Saturday evening. The officers said it was even hard for them to fully know what was going on.
"I had no idea what I was getting into when I walked, when I drove into Windsor Greens," PFC Manjarrez said. "Chaos. You couldn't tell if something had exploded back there, if a plane had crashed."
The officers said they focused on getting people out of the area as fast as possible.
"Yelling, telling people to get their belongings out of the house because we didn't know how much time they had left," LCPL Massey said.
Massey said once he was inside Windsor Green, a woman pleaded for his help. She said her grandfather was trapped upstairs.
"I went all the way up three flights of stairs. I went up top, once I got up top, I knew I was in trouble," LCPL Massey said.
Massey said he could barely breathe and flames were directly in front of him, but he was able to see a man lying in front of him.
"I immediately grabbed his arm with no thought and went down three flights of stairs. I looked up and saw my blue lights on my police car and I started dragging this guy to my police car," LCPL Massey said.
PFC Cestare and PFC Manjarrez were banging on doors, making sure people were leaving their homes. PFC Cestare had only been a licensed officer for eight days on Saturday. He said he wouldn't have done anything differently.
"I didn't know how I was gonna handle it. Coming out of it as calm as we did, I feel like that was a true achievement, just getting everyone out," PFC Cestare said.
All three offices were taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, but all three went back to work the next day following the fire.