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Deputy honored for rescuing man from burning home

Becky Vargo • Apr 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM

An Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputy was honored for rescuing a man from a burning house early last month.

Deputy Travis Schippers was given a life saving award on Thursday during a meeting of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners. Sheriff Steve Kempker presented the award during the meeting held at the County’s Fillmore Street Complex.

“The action that Deputy Travis Schipper took at this incident was heroic and lifesaving,” Kempker said. “Deputy Schippers without hesitation, and risking his own safety, entered the burning home to get the owner out safely. As Sheriff I am proud of him, and his fellow co-workers are too. Deputy Schippers is committed to his job, professionalism and service to the citizens of Ottawa County.”

Schippers was one of the first people to arrive at the scene of a house fire on March 6 at 2747 Winans St. in Tallmadge Township.

Wright-Tallmadge Fire Chief Mike Gavin said his firefighters were already gathered for their bi-monthly training when the alarm sounded and they were able to make a quick response.

But, on the way to the scene, there were conflicting reports about the homeowner going back into the house to search for his dogs. Radio communications were difficult due to a microphone on one of the responding tracks being stuck open, the chief wrote in a letter recommending the award.

An Allendale fire officer responding to the scene reported that he could see heavy flames from a mile away, Gavin wrote. That same officer was the first firefighter on the scene to give a radio report. He said the house was well-involved in fire and the male homeowner was unaccounted for. The entire main level of the single story home with a walk-out basement was “nothing but flames.” Because of that, firefighters were not allowed to go inside the structure.

When Gavin arrived, and was being briefed by the Allendale officer, they saw Schippers and another Wright-Tallmadge fire officer escorting a man from the back of the house, out to the road to a waiting ambulance.

Gavin said he learned later that, when Schippers arrived, he went to the back of the residence and yelled for the man. That man yelled back and Schippers advised him to get out of the house. The man replied that he needed to get his dogs. That’s when Schippers went inside and brought the man to safety.

“The quick actions surely saved this man’s life,” Gavin wrote. “It does not appear that the male subject who was inside the house had any idea how bad the conditions were.”

“This was truly a heroic action by Deputy Schippers,” Gavin said.

Two people were taken to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids to be treated for smoke inhalation, it was reported the night of the fire. The deputy was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

The home, located near Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus, was a total loss. It's not yet clear what started the fire.

Responding fire departments included Wright-Tallmadge, Allendale, Walker, Blendon Township, Zeeland, Coopersville-Polkton, Chester Township and Robinson Township.

Schippers is also deputy fire chief at the Coopersville-Polkton Fire Department.

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