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Employees serve as heroic inspiration

November 18, 2020

By Rachel Ericson (Noll)

DOC Communications

Two men standing in front of a car

CO David Askren and CCO Justin Grimes had driven past a car with an engine on fire while returning from a shift at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Corrections staff)

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At the Washington State Department of Corrections, you will find staff members who dedicate themselves to the work they do, with a heart of service.

For many, this work ethic and desire to help others, goes beyond the job description, demonstrating the commitment that Corrections staff have to exemplifying the department’s mission and vision.

Engine fire erupts, miles from emergency services

This year, staff from all over the Department have had new, unprecedented challenges and found ways to maintain safety and security during the pandemic. In different ways, our staff have proven they have unparalleled work ethic and a desire to help during times of crisis.

Two staff members, Community Corrections Officer (CCO) Justin Grimes and Corrections Officer (CO) David Askren, typically work out of the Wenatchee field office. However, in June, they were assisting Coyote Ridge Corrections Center with transportation needs. Each time they would travel to Coyote Ridge, they would take a short cut, which would bypass some of the heavier traffic and serve as a bit quicker than the standard route.

On such a day, they were returning from a shift at Coyote Ridge, when they noticed a car to the side of the road, with the hood up.

They were both quick to notice the driver watching in dismay as flames leapt out from under the engine compartment. The car was dangerously close to a field with tall, dry grass. Fortunately, they had ensured their vehicle was appropriately equipped with two fire extinguishers that very morning.

The driver had already contacted emergency services, but time was clearly of the essence. As Grimes directed traffic safely around the incident, Askren thoroughly extinguished the fire.

Their quick thinking and immediate response to help a stranger in distress, exhibits yet another example of the passion and dedication staff have for helping others. Not only did they provide much needed assistance for an immediate emergency, their quick actions helped prevent a potentially disastrous brush fire.

Major car crash on I-5

Community Corrections Officers Shane Ransone, Parmvir Gill, and Andrew Liebl found themselves as first responders to a major car accident while in transit on the interstate. The group was heading north, when they witnessed the car directly in front of them, smash into the back of a van while travelling at a high rate of speed. The quick-thinking officers immediately contacted 911.

Seattle Fire Department responded within five minutes; however, before they could arrive, the car engine caught on fire with both a mother and child still in the vehicle. The officers made the decision to get the two out of the vehicle before the fire could spread.

Working swiftly, they removed the child from the car seat and helped the mother exit the vehicle. The officers then retrieved a fire extinguisher from the van and assisted an on-scene trooper in putting out the car fire.

A person never knows how they may react in any emergency. No matter how much emergency training a person may go through, there are no guarantees that the situation to which they respond will be one for which they have trained. In this circumstance, Ransone, Gill, and Liebl showed exemplary courage and quick thinking during an intense experience.

“We saw the collision and knew that people could be hurt,” said Community Corrections Officer Gill. “We knew that we needed to do what we could to help. Everyone was quick to respond and assist the family in need. We all operated in good faith and in the end, we were able to help this family with what could have been an even more dangerous incident.”

First on scene to a house fire

Community Corrections Officers Craig Danielson and Salvador Morales heard a call go over the scanner for a nearby structure fire close enough they could hear sirens.

Hearing that an individual might still be inside the residence, they responded, arriving before other emergency personnel.

Dark smoke was billowing from the attic area of the residence. Two individuals had made it out, two individuals were still inside and the fire department still had yet to arrive. In a moment where those around them were struggling to stay calm, the officers took the opportunity to ensure everyone would make it to safety.

Danielson and Morales decided that although the fire risk could change at any time, they likely had time to ensure everyone got out safely. They were able to get the family's dogs to safety, but the officers noted the individuals appeared to be panicking and attempting to save as many of their belongings as possible. One said she could not leave until she found her coat and boots.

As the fire continued to burn and the woman remained inside looking for cold weather gear, Officer Danielson realized it might be easier to enter the building and assist her to ensure she made it out safely.

“When we heard the call, I knew we could help,” said Officer Danielson. “I knew we were close. I knew that every second mattered if this person was going to live or die. I knew it was the right thing to do.”

The officers in any of these experiences would say they just did what anyone would do.

This level of humility and service is exactly what makes these moments important to recognize.

They all experienced moments where they believed a person’s life might be in danger, and they responded to help, embodying a character trait the department is fortunate to have in their community corrections officers and truly demonstrating the department’s vision – working together for safer communities.