MONROE - Two Monroe police officers who received the prestigious Carnegie Medal for saving a resident from a burning building were honored at last week's City Council meeting.
Cpl. Chad Tolstedt and Officer Paul Marks joined an elite group in June when the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced the selection of 23 Carnegie Medal winners.
The on-duty officers entered the intensely burning apartment on June 30, 2009, without protective gear to reach Timothy Kundrat and dragged him outside to safety.
Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Hero Fund in 1904 after a coal mine explosion. Two volunteers who responded to help, Selwyn M. Taylor and Daniel A. Lyle, along with 181 miners lost their lives. Only one person survived.
Monroe police officers Paul Marks, left, and Chad Tolstedt receive a standing ovation in a ceremony honoring them and their reception of Carnegie Hero awards.
Mr. Carnegie was touched by the selfless actions of the volunteers and created the Hero Fund to honor and provide financial assistance to modern-day heroes and their families.
To date, 9,372 people, including living individuals and the families of deceased heroes, have been presented with the prestigious medal. Approximately 20 percent of all recipients are honored posthumously.
Both officers said they were honored to be selected and don't consider themselves heroes.
"It is a nice recognition for what happened," Corporal Tolstedt said. "What can I say? I was there. Someone needed to go in to get the guy and I just happened to be the one who was there."
Corporal Tolstedt, 34, an 11-year member of the department, was recognized with a life-saving award earlier this year by the local American Red Cross chapter. He received the Everyday Heroes award.
Both men received citations from the police department in recognition of their valor.
"There probably is not too much better of a feeling than to get an award from your own department. I definitely felt honored. According to everything I read about the Carnegie award it goes to a very select few," said Officer Marks, 33, who joined the department five years ago.
Each officer received a bronze medal and $5,000 from the commission.
Corporal Tolstedt was the first emergency responder to arrive at the apartment fire that was reported just after midnight on Kings Court.
Nearly six-foot flames were visible to the officer as he looked through the sliding glass door. After neighbors told him that Mr. Kundrat hadn't left the unit, Corporal Tolstedt kicked open the front door, called for the occupant, and crawled on his belly.
"I could hear movement inside the apartment, but there was no response. I could hear stuff falling. I yelled for him to come to the light of my flashlight," he said.
The officer was inhaling smoke and had to retreat outside to get fresh air and get his breath back. He ran back inside and went about 15 feet to find the victim sitting near a wall in the living room.
As he reached down to pull up Mr. Kundrat, Officer Marks arrived and assisted the corporal in dragging him out of the apartment.
"I certainly didn't expect to enter a burning apartment when I showed up for work that night," Officer Marks said.
Investigators with the Hero Fund Commission who learned about the officers' efforts contacted Monroe Fire Chief Joseph Mominee, who passed on documents, reports, and statements.
Chief Mominee said he was impressed at the thoroughness of the commission in researching the incident.
"The officers certainly deserve the award. If they had not done what they did, the guy would have succumbed to the smoke and fire," he said.
The officers are the third and fourth Monroe residents to be recognized by the commission.
Retired police Officer Jack Poupard and Donnie Gene Hammitte received the award for their efforts to save two boys who drowned July 9, 1973, in the River Raisin.
Mr. Hammitte, who received the award posthumously, tried to save Robert Clark, 12, and Clarence Ashby, Jr., 13, after they were washed over a low dam in the river and caught in the turbulent water.
Mr. Hammitte, 32, a welder, stripped his shirt and shoes and waded out onto the dam wall, where he jumped into the river below the dam.
He grabbed the Clark youth, but they sank into the swift current and were separated.
Officer Poupard, who was off-duty, took of his shirt and waded onto the dam and jumped into the water, probing below the surface to find Mr. Hammitte.
He reached Mr. Hammitte and, with the aid of another officer, got him to the bank. However, Mr. Hammitte could not be revived.