(Virginia State Police, Virginia)
On January 9, 2010, with temperatures below freezing, Trooper Matthew Cochran was on patrol in Carroll County working the midnight shift. At approximately 4:30 a.m., the Hillsville Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire at Briarleigh Court, an apartment complex on North Main Street in the town. The single-story facility specifically designed for elderly occupants housed up to 40 residents. There was no full-time staff onsite. Though the individual apartments are equipped with smoke detectors, there is no sprinkler system.
When Trooper Cochran heard the fire call, he immediately responded to the complex, arriving before the fire department. When he arrived, flames were visible from one apartment with dense smoke consuming the adjoining apartments. Trooper Cochran, with the assistance of a Carroll County deputy and a Hillsville police officer, began banging on the doors of the apartments to arouse the sleeping tenants. As the tenants woke to their terrifying situation, Trooper Cochran and the other two officers helped them escape and led them to safety.
At one point, the officers heard a resident screaming for help. Without hesitation, Trooper Cochran entered the burning building without any protective gear to search for the woman. It took multiple attempts on his part to find her, as he had to crawl on his hands and knees through the intense flames and thick smoke.
Despite the life-threatening conditions, Trooper Cochran located the terrified woman and carried her outside to safety. He then returned to the burning building to find additional victims. Moments after rescuing the very last victim, the roof of several adjoining apartments collapsed. All 37 residents were rescued because of Trooper Cochran and the two other officers’ exceptional, courageous, and immediate actions.