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Officer Recounts Quick Rescue During House Fire

Pictured are members of the Rivera family. A Gofundme fundraising drive has been established after the family’s home was destroyed in a fire that broke out early Monday in Jamestown. An officer helped rescue several members from the blaze. Submitted photo

A lot went through Mark Conklin’s head as he came across a fully engulfed house fire in Jamestown in the early morning hours Monday.

But when it became clear there were people still inside the 116 1/2 William St. property as flames consumed the front porch, his thinking instantly became focused.

“Only objective is to make sure everyone gets out,” said Conklin, an officer with the Jamestown Police Department who is being called a hero after helping a mother and her daughter jump to safety and before that grabbing another — all from their burning home.

His life-saving actions were later broadcast to the masses after the department released his body camera footage. In it, the 2013 Jamestown High School graduate can be seen following another individual who had been gesturing in the air to black smoke and a nearby structure fire. After hopping a fence, Conklin soon comes across the two-story home with its porch fully ablaze and quickly alerts dispatch.

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time, Conklin told The Post-Journal in an interview. The four-year veteran of the department — the first two in court security and the last two as a patrolman — was returning to his vehicle on Baker Street after completing a service call when notified of the possible fire.

Mark Conklin

As a police officer, Conklin has come across a few “high-intensity calls,” but nothing like the scene he encountered around 12:25 a.m. on William. After relaying to dispatch details of the blaze to get firefighters en route, he grabbed a child near the entrance of the home and moved them to safety. After circling back around he yelled for two people trapped inside to jump.

When the first person leaped into his arms, it accidentally turned off his body camera. The entire rescue took less than a minute-and-a-half.

The family, Brooke and Hector Rivera and their four children, was being assisted by the American Red Cross.

“They’re still very shaken up,” said Rebecca Russo, a friend of the family who started a Gofundme drive which, as of Tuesday afternoon, had brought in more than $5,000. The family lost all of their possessions in the blaze.

“The family is doing well,” Russo said. “They’re safe and temporarily staying with another family member.”

Russo watched the body camera footage Monday, stating it was “actually hard to watch.” She also praised the efforts of Conklin. “That officer is truly a hero,” she said. “He definitely saved their lives.”

Within moments of JPD posting the video to Facebook, Conklin received praise for his efforts to help the family escape the fire. Some of that praise came from Police Chief Timothy Jackson.

“I can say that I have seen many examples of heroism over the years by officers,” he said. “After watching the video of this incident and speaking to others involved, I can say that the actions of Officer Conklin were, to say the least, one of the most outstanding examples of bravery, heroism, and exemplary service I have seen. We, the Jamestown Police Department, are honored to have officers such as Mark Conklin working in the Jamestown Police Department.”

While the residence was destroyed in the blaze, the Riveras escaped without serious injury. They were all transported to UPMC Chautauqua for treatment of smoke inhalation but later released.

Hailed as a hero, the 25-year-old Conklin said he was simply doing his job and believes others would have done the same. “I’m just glad I was in the right place at the right time,” he said, adding that the entire incident went by very fast.

The fundraiser (https://gofund.me/81b811f7 and HelpRiveraFamily.com) is also accepting clothing and essential household items. Pearl City Pets, 201 Cherry St., Jamestown, has offered to accept donations for the family.

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