Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer Jenni Byrd and Officer Kris Kubasta of the San Jose (CA) Police Department as its Officers of the Month for September 2012.
The holidays often prove to be an especially busy time for everyone, including police departments throughout the country. In fact, it’s not uncommon for officers to take on extra shifts during this time, in order to meet the increased demand for police assistance. Last year was no exception for the San Jose (CA) Police Department.
In the early hours January 1, 2011—New Year's Day—Officers Jenni Byrd and Kris Kubasta, having completed their regular shift, volunteered to work additional hours. At 3:00 am, Officers Byrd and Kubasta were wrapping up an investigation following a domestic disturbance call when Officer Byrd noticed something strange. From the corner of her eye she saw a light flickering behind a closed curtain in a house about a block away. Unsure whether it was the reflection of a Christmas decoration, the officers drove to the house to get a better look. Arriving at the residence they realized the living room was ablaze, with flames already climbing towards the second story. A call was immediately placed to dispatch requesting assistance from the fire department and emergency personnel.
Through a first floor window, Officer Byrd noticed an elderly woman sleeping just feet from the blaze—both officers began banging on the windows and door of the house in an effort to rouse the woman. The fire had intensified, covering the ceiling in flames and filling the house with black smoke. The woman woke to the banging and answered the door still not realizing that she was in incredible danger. When the officers informed her of the fire, she inexplicably ran back into the house. The officers followed her into the burning home and guided the distraught woman to safety. Officer Kubasta retrieved a fire extinguisher from his cruiser and was able to subdue the flames.
When asked if there was anyone else in the building, the woman, who seemed to be in shock, responded that she was the only one on the first floor. Her response prompted Officers Byrd and Kubasta to re-enter the dwelling and more thoroughly search for other occupants. In an upstairs bedroom, thick with smoke, they found another sleeping woman. Fearing that the flames might again erupt, the officers roused her and got her out of the house as quickly as possible, while checking for any other occupants they might have missed. The first fire engine arrived as the officers and the second potential victim exited the home.
The fire had been started by lights on a small artificial Christmas tree that had been left plugged into the wall socket. It was later learned that there were no operating smoke detectors on either floor of the residence and the occupants might never have been aware of the fire that was raging in the structure. Fire department officials believe that if Officers Byrd and Kubasta had not observed the glow from the window and taken action, the house would have been quickly engulfed in flames, and the two women most certainly would have perished that early January morning.
Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Byrd and Officer Kubasta, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2012, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC in May 2013 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s annual calendar.