Public Safety Officer Cameron Rieper rescued a woman from a burning vehicle on Dec. 16.

Public Safety Officer Cameron Rieper rescued a woman from a burning vehicle on Dec. 16.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Fraser officer rescues woman from burning vehicle

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published December 27, 2023


FRASER — A Fraser public safety officer is being commended after rescuing a woman from her burning vehicle on Dec. 16.

The Fraser Department of Public Safety reported that officer Cameron Rieper pulled the woman from the driver’s seat of a GMC Sierra at about 10 p.m. as the vehicle was engulfed in flames after entering a ditch on the east side of Hayes Road south of 15 Mile Road.

Rieper said the initial call from dispatch was for a vehicle in a ditch. On his way to the scene, he learned the vehicle was on fire.

“I received the call while I was still at the station and was just getting out on patrol. I pulled up and there was a GMC Sierra in a ditch on Hayes Road, just south of 15 Mile Road,” said Rieper. “The back of the vehicle was on fire and the fire was starting to spread to the rest of the vehicle. The driver was behind the wheel and rolling her window up with the door closed. She seemed confused or had an altered state. I don’t think she understood what was going on.”

Rieper rushed to the vehicle and pulled the woman to safety before she suffered any serious injury. He was humble about the accomplishment, but his fellow Fraser Department of Public Safety members are calling him a hero.

“We’re very proud of him,” said Detective Sgt. Ben Hoppe. “This is what we train our officers to do. This is what we expect them to do in an emergency situation. He ran into a fire and saved someone’s life. He’s a hero.”

Rieper said his being a public safety officer and, thus, having firefighting training, helped him assess and respond to the dire situation.

“We’re public safety officers so we do police, fire and EMS training. I think any police officer would have done the same, but I think I had the extra knowledge from being a firefighter as well,” he said. “Another officer had his fire gear with him, so he was able to begin addressing the situation when he arrived.”

He went on to say it remained unclear how the vehicle ended up in the ditch and caught fire. He said the woman appeared somewhat incoherent, possibly due to the accident or an existing medical condition.

“She was in her 80s. She was conscious and semi-responsive to questions,” said Rieper. “She didn’t seem able to answer all our questions. … I’m glad she’s OK. I want to thank the public who called and those who stopped and assisted.”

Rieper said the woman was transported to an area hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. No other information was released.

“We don’t know how she ended up in the ditch,” Rieper said. “There were no witnesses to the crash itself. The first witnesses who called it in said she was already in the ditch trying to get out. She was on the east side of Hayes, in the ditch. She was facing west, but we’re not sure if that was from her trying to get out of the ditch or if she was in the wrong lane.”

Hoppe said that Rieper will almost certainly be recognized for his actions.

“We have various awards that PSO Rieper could get for saving the citizen from the burning vehicle, and his accomplishment has been submitted to the commendation board who will then forward their recommendation to the Director of Public Safety,” Hoppe said in an email. “The director can then award PSO Rieper any award recommended by the commendation board, and the commendation board meets quarterly to review recommendations submitted to them.

The most likely recognition, according to Hoppe, would be the department’s lifesaving award.

“The Lifesaving Citation shall be awarded for the saving of a life through various actions, such as the application of first aid or CPR. This citation does not preclude the issuance of an award for valor, bravery, or meritorious service if circumstances warrant,” Hoppe said in an email. “The request for citation will be accompanied by a document for witnesses or an attending physician stating that the methods applied contributed significantly to the saving of a life.”

He added, “It is my opinion that PSO Rieper certainly showed heroism on this date by saving this citizen from the burning vehicle, so I believe that he should be awarded a lifesaving citation for his actions.”