Heavy smoke, heat … & a thorough search

From left, firefighter Chase Autry, engineer Sean Schatzman, and firefighter Kyle Vogelpohl pose with their award.


3 Covington firefighters honored for dramatic rescue

COVINGTON, Ky. – The call came in at 11:04 p.m.

Smoke was coming from an apartment building in the Botany Hills neighborhood … and the caller suspected people might still be trapped inside.

Within four minutes, Covington firefighters were on the scene.

It was Feb. 13, 2021.

What happened next – amid the implementation of what amounted to a choreographed (and oft-practiced) response – saved a life and earned three Covington fire personnel some noteworthy recognition.

Capt. Kaleb Miller and firefighter Jeff Sanzere from Pumper 2 were the first to enter the building, where they confirmed the smoke and traced it to Apt. 4 on the second floor.

As the P2 crew dragged a firehose toward the apartment, they were joined by engineer Sean Schatzman and firefighters Kyle Vogelpohl and Chase Autry of Rescue 1.

Forcing open the door, the firefighters were smacked in the face by heavy black smoke and a good deal of heat. With visibility near zero, they entered.

P2 found the fire in the kitchen and began dumping water on it as their colleagues searched for people.

It was Schatzman who entered a small bedroom and discovered a cell phone at the foot of the bed. He swept the bed. Nothing. But when he pulled the bed away from the wall, he found a person face down on the floor and unresponsive.

With help from Vogelpohl and Autry, he carried the person out of the apartment and the building.

Once outside, the man remained unresponsive but breathing. He was transferred to the University of Cincinnati Health Trauma Center and admitted in serious condition due to smoke inhalation. After a stay in the hospital, including a stint in a hyperbaric chamber, he was released and given a good prognosis.

Battalion Chief John Martin, the incident commander that night, said the firefighters’ professionalism made all the difference.

If not for the “methodic, thorough search of the bedroom,” Martin wrote in nominating the three firefighters for the Northern Kentucky Firefighter’s Association (NKFA) Distinguished Fire & EMS Service Awards, “this situation would have had a different, negative outcome.”

The association agreed. Recently, in a ceremony at Receptions Event Center in Erlanger, it gave Schatzman, Vogelpohl, and Autry its NFKA Award of Honor for their dramatic actions that February night.

Covington Fire Chief Mark Pierce said the honor was well-deserved.

“We are proud of all our firefighters and the job they do,” he said. “It was nice to recognize these individuals for their outstanding performance and the job they did that night. It’s not often that we’re able to highlight our people for the jobs they do in the public forum. Thanks to their training and persistence, instinct, and maybe a little luck, this individual had a positive outcome.”


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