In the early morning hours on Sunday, as Rogersville police officer Tyler Dison’s shift was coming to a close, he heard the urgent message: “apartments on fire with a possible entrapment of a child.”
Dison, just 24 years old, wasted no time heading to the scene. Formerly a firefighter before becoming a policeman, the first responder was uniquely equipped to handle the situation.
“I wanted to get there first,” Dison told WAAY-TV. “I wanted to do more than just wait for a call to come out.”
Upon arrival at the apartment complex in Rogersville, Alabama, he heard a woman screaming, confirming that there was indeed a child still trapped inside the burning building.
“Honestly, it was less than 30 seconds. I got out of my car; she was screaming ‘My baby’s inside!'” Dison said.
The fire was daunting and eventually consumed the building, leaving only the framing of the unit behind. But the young officer had only one thought on his mind: “I said, I gotta save this child at all costs.”
“On this far side flames were shooting out of this window,” Dison recalled. “Heavy smoke was rolling through the rest of the windows. When I got upstairs, heavy smoke was showing.”
He disappeared into the flames, and several minutes later re-emerged with the injured 3-year-old. Dison himself suffered burns, and parts of his uniform even melted, but his focus was entirely on saving that little boy.
“His breathing was very shallow. He was very lethargic,” he said. “He was groaning. He wasn’t really responding.”
“If I wouldn’t have done something, the baby was surely going to die.”
He put the toddler in his police car and drove out to meet the ambulance, according to a post by Shoals Insider. The boy was taken to North Alabama Medical Center and was later escorted by Air-Evac to UAB Hospital.
A firefighter, Rogersville Fire Chief Frankie Phillips, also rescued a man from a unit below who was trapped inside the burning building.
Chief Brian Hudson with the Rogersville Police Department said it was Jared Hazelwood, the father of the boy, who started the fire, according to WAFF.
Shoals Insider also stated that the father set the blaze and left his son inside the apartment. Hazelwood was charged with seven counts of arson, though more charges are expected, including attempted murder.
“Jared Lynn Hazelwood of Athens, Alabama has been charged with seven counts of first-degree arson,” the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office shared on Tuesday.
“The arrest stems from a March 6 apartment fire in Rogersville, which severely damaged eight apartments and injured a 3-year-old. Hazelwood was transported to the Lauderdale County Detention Center. The Rogersville Police and Fire Departments along with the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the fire.”
Family of the 3-year-old told WAAY-TV that he was treated and is now home, and though he has burns, he is expected to recover — all thanks to Dison’s bravery and selflessness.
“He did what we’re out here to do, to protect lives, saves lives,” Hudson said.
“I’m just blessed that baby’s doing OK,” Dison said.
“I grew up in this town. I wanted to protect it always … This is what I signed up for.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.