The Clifford E. Johnson VFW Post No. 9759 hosted the annual “Officer of the Year” event on March 4. Award recipients pictured from left are: Steve Olson (Illinois State Police), and Loves Park Police Officers Colleen Gaspard, Kurt Cutler, Sean Kahly, Brian Britnell, and Mike Landman.

Officers Brian Britnell, Kurt Cutler, Collen Gaspard and Sean Kahly, as well as Sergeant Mike Landman were all nominated for the Annual 2017 VFW Officer of the Year Award for their part in saving lives from a burning building in May 2016. Their actions were recognized during a dinner at VFW Post No. 9759, held in Loves Park on March 4.
On May 2, 2016, at 3 a.m. Officer Britnell, was patrolling Pebble Creek Subdivision when he detected smoke. While searching the area for the source of the smoke, he found a burning apartment building in the 4100 block of Applewood Lane.
Just after Officer Britnell arrived on scene, a dispatcher notified him of the first 911 call, which was placed by an off-duty Cherry Valley Police Officer, Jason Personette, who saw the fire as he headed home from his overnight patrol shift in Cherry Valley.
As more officers raced to the scene, Officers Britnell and Personette saw a woman trapped on the balcony of her se-cond-floor apartment, with flames pouring out the patio door behind her. Officer Britnell retrieved an expandable ladder from his squad car, extended it up to the balcony and worked to help the woman climb over the balcony railing. Officers heard glass breaking and realized another family had broken out an upstairs window. The family was yelling for help.
As more officers arrived on scene, Officers Britnell and Personette, moved their ladder over to the apartment where the family had just broken out the window. They were able to help two adults and a child out the window, onto the ladder and to safety. The family told officers they tried to get out of the building, but their apartment was filled with too much smoke to escape through the doorway.
In the meantime, Sergeant Mike Landman, Officer Sean Kahly and Officer Kurt Cutler were still helping the woman trapped on the balcony. Sergeant Landman knew how grave the situation was, so he

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