It was minus 38 degrees with windchill early in the morning of Jan. 2, 2018, when MRC des Collines Police Constables Kevin Simonneau and Isabelle Gilbert were the first emergency responders on the scene of a house fire.
The pairs’ actions that night saved the lives of a mother and baby, and, as a result, they received Quebec’s highest distinction officers can receive in Quebec, the Cross of Bravery, during a ceremony last month.
“We were the first there,” Simonneau recalled during a phone interview last week with The Low Down. “All we could see was smoke coming out of the house but no flames.”
The Chemin Townline home in La Pêche near the Cantley municipal border was so filled with smoke that the officers had trouble locating the mother who had called 911 to report that she and her four-month-old were trapped in the second storey bedroom of a burning house. Simonneau and Gilbert eventually saw the mother’s hand on a window. Gilbert saw a small ladder and the pair used it to get up to a small section of the roof. On the roof, Gilbert boosted Simonneau further up onto another narrow section of roof higher up.
Simonneau tried to open the window, but it was frozen shut, so he told the mother to stand back and guard her baby while he busted it open. The mother immediately handed her child over to Simonneau who walked carefully back along the narrow roof to where he could give the infant to Gilbert, who in turn passed the baby down to other officers who had arrived by this time.
Back at the broken window, Simonneau learned that it was too small for the mother to fit through. He ended up using a sledgehammer to smash the frame and wall around the window, so she could make it out alive.
“I have no doubt that any other MRC officer would have done the same to save them,” Simonneau said about his actions.
Gilbert is now an officer with the Gatineau Police, but the pair were presented with the Crosses of Bravery for their life saving actions on that roof during a ceremony on April 22.
“I’m really proud of [the award]. I think it’s a good thing for everyone at the office,” Simonneau said.
When asked if he wears the medal on his duty uniform, he laughed and said that he keeps the medal in his home library.