SINGAPORE - An 86-year-old woman left behind in a burning house on April 16 in Yio Chu Kang was rescued by three police officers, two of whom braved the thick smoke to reach her.
Sergeant Choong K-Ron, a 21-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF), had come up with the idea of crawling on the ground through the smoke to reach the grandmother.
The trio from the Serangoon Neighbourhood Police Centre were on patrol nearby when they were dispatched to the fire incident.
They were the first on the scene around 6.10pm, said Sergeant Tan Wei Jie, 27, during an interview with the media on Monday evening (April 25) about the incident.
The house was shrouded in thick black smoke from the fire, and family members who had evacuated shouted to the officers that their grandmother was stuck on the second floor, he said.
Sgt Tan and Sgt Choong hurried into the burning house, while another NSF on their team, Special Constable (SC) Muhammad Amru Abd Rahman, 21, managed the crowd outside.
"There wasn't much time to think, it was instinct," said Sgt Tan. "When we made it up to the second floor, it was close to pitch black even with a torch.
"After a few seconds, we had difficulty breathing and felt some pain in the lungs. Imagine how much worse it is for someone more senior."
Unable to breathe through the thick smoke, the pair retreated to the stairs. Then Sgt Choong suggested they crawl through the smoke, recalling fire safety tips he had learnt in the past.
On all fours, they shuffled through the smoke, yelling for the grandmother.
Said Sgt Tan: "We saw her feet below the smoke, staggering towards us. We quickly stood up and grabbed her from the side and supported her as she headed down to the ground floor."
He estimated the rescue took a few minutes, and added: "She didn't say much... She looked quite confused but relieved that she was brought to safety."
Their faces blackened with soot, the officers handed the grandmother over to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedics who had arrived.
In a statement to The Straits Times, an SCDF spokesman said it was alerted to the fire at 6.05pm.
The fire involved the contents of a bedroom on the second floor and SCDF personnel put out the fire using a water jet and compressed air foam, he added.
One person suffered smoke inhalation injuries and was taken to Singapore General Hospital, said the spokesman, adding that the cause of the fire was being investigated.
It is understood that the grandmother is well.
Sgt Choong, who will complete his full-time national service in May, said there was no time to speak to the woman or her family during the incident as they needed to evacuate the nearby homes.
The incident marked an eventful first patrol for SC Amru, who completed eight months of police training earlier in April.
He said: "That was my first shift ever, and honestly, it was scary. But seeing the senior officers run in so bravely gave me courage."