CKFR honors trooper for off-duty heroics

Kent Hitchings was planning on spending a quiet day March 2, 2004, at his parents’ Silverdale home when fate intervened and made him a hero.

The off-duty Washington State Patrol sergeant was outside enjoying the sunshine when he heard a woman screaming for help at the house across the street. After telling his mother to call 911, he turned back and saw the woman run back inside the home to rescue her pets.

She came back out again, handed Hitchings a bird and a birdcage, and ran back inside.

So the 13-year law enforcement veteran made a choice to enter the smoke-filled home.

“It was clear she was so intent on saving her pets that it appeared to me she would stay in there and risk her life for theirs. I figured I had to make at least an attempt to get her out of there with the smoke as it was, so I gave it a whirl.”

Hitchings estimated he was in the house two or three minutes crawling on his stomach as he looked for the woman, and once he found her, grabbed her and moved her outside the home with a cockatiel and her dog at their heels.

“I was to the point where I knew I couldn’t stay in there much longer without a breathing apparatus. Luckily she was close enough so I could grab her and lead her out.”

The woman survived and was treated for burns and minor smoke inhalation.

Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue battalion chief Joe Repar was so impressed with Hitchings’ actions that he nominated him for the department’s Meritorious Service Award for his selfless actions. Hitchings received the award in a ceremony Monday afternoon at CKFR headquarters.

“Sgt. Hitchings had no duty to crawl into a toxic atmosphere on March 2, but he did,” Repar wrote in a letter to WSP District Commander Capt. Mark Thomas. “Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue is extremely grateful for Sgt. Hitchings selfless actions in saving one of our citizens.”

His supervisor, Lt. Helmut Steele, was impressed by the letter and submitted Hitchings for a WSP Award of Merit that he’ll receive in a ceremony on July 2 in Olympia.

“It’s kind of embarrassing. You’re there and you do what needs to be done,” Hitchings said. “You’re not doing it for the intent of getting an award down the road.

“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to do some good.”

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