Three teens were riding their bikes in Breckenridge, Minnesota, the evening of June 24 when they noticed smoke was coming from a home as they rode past. Ivy Ovsak along with twin sisters Emma Etzler and Elizabeth Etzler, all 14, saw the smoke and called Ovsak’s mother, Erin, who then called 911.
Breckenridge Police Officer Blake Olson was on duty that night and only a few blocks away when he received the call. He responded and saw the home filled with smoke. He could see man in the home but he was not responding to Officer Olson’s yelling and pounding on the door. The officer then kicked in the front door and went inside. Erin Ovsak followed him in. Officer Olson was able to get the man outside and Ovsak shut off the stovetop, which was the cause of the smoke. She also was able to get two dogs safely outside of the residence.
The Breckenridge Fire Department responded and worked to ventilate the smoke and ensure the home was safe again. No lives were lost or injuries reported.
Breckenridge Police Chief Kris Karlgaard presented Life Saving Awards to the four citizens and Officer Olson Monday, Aug. 5 during the Breckenridge City Council meeting. He noted the awards were from the city of Breckenridge, his agency and the fire department.
“I’m proud to present these Live Saving Awards to these exceptional men and women for their brave actions, during this life-threatening event,” he said. “Without each of your efforts, this incident could have had a very different ending.”
The awards were given out in front of the recipients’ family and friends at the council meeting.
“Thank you all for your actions that night, you very likely saved a person’s life,” Karlgaard said.
The day after the presentations, Erin Ovsak spoke to Daily News about that night and how proud she and Joanna Etzler are of their girls.
“We feel great, they followed directions really well,” Ovsak said, noting they kept cool heads.
She said the teenagers had gone to Dairy Queen and were returning home about 10 p.m. when they noticed the scent of smoke in the air and heard a faint smoke alarm. She was also on her way home and had spoken to them a few minutes previously, noting she turned her car around immediately and arrived at the smoke-filled residence.
“I think the girls would have called 911 right away but since I’d just passed by, they called me first,” she said. “I ran up and started pounding on the door and yelling. The dogs are barking, the alarm is going off, the TV is going and I’m yelling through a window that was partially opened, but he didn’t respond.”
Ovsak told the girls to run next door and see if they had a spare key to the house, while she searched around the porch and mailbox for one.
“In short order, the police were there and kicked in the door,” she said.
She followed the officer in and saw the smoke was coming from the stovetop, so shut that off.
“I handed the dogs to the girls and another lady who stopped by,” Ovsak said.
She said she was thankful none of the girls had been wearing earbuds while cycling, because they’re not allowed to, but also because they would not have heard the alarm as they rode by the house.
“Another part of this is how quickly our volunteer fire department was on scene. It was a nice evening out, and they dropped whatever they’d been doing in their lives and came to the scene. It could have been much worse,” she said.
She also commended the neighbors who came out to see what was happening.
“Our community is so great. Had anyone needed help, there were so many people there willing to help,” she added.
“The three girls really did it all. That gentleman is lucky they went to Dairy Queen – I almost told them no, because it was getting late.”
She added that the Wilkin County Fair is coming up soon, and she knows the fire department does some fundraising there.
“I’m thinking a bit more strongly to support our fire department,” she added.
The Wilkin County Fair runs Thursday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 18 at Welles Memorial Park in Breckenridge. Emergency Responders Appreciation Day runs 1:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 – a chance to thank those who put their lives on the line to assist the rest of us all year long.