Share This Page

FOP honors 3 local officers for Wilmerding house fire heroics

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91 recognized area police for going above and beyond the call of duty as they responded to a Wilmerding fire.

Kirk Kotchig, Erick Lakin and Travis Pomaibo of North Versailles Township Police Department and Daniel Pici of Turtle Creek Police Department were among those who received 2012 Law Enforcement Awards during the FOP's Law Enforcement Recognition Night. The event took place Friday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5008 in East Pittsburgh.

On the morning of June 14, 2011, Kotchig smelled something burning as he patrolled through Wilmerding. He came upon the scene of a residential structure fire in the 400 block of Patton Street, with flames coming from the third floor.

"I noticed a smoky haze and smelled the smoke," Kotchig recalled. "I followed a smoke trail to that house."

Pici heard Kotchig's request for assistance, and arrived on scene at the same time as Pomaibo.

"(Kotchig) was trying to make entry to the front door, and we went to the side door," Pici said.

The group entered the residence because they could not wake the occupants from outside.

Kotchig and Pici, who were present to accept awards Friday, said they knew their task was to get residents out of the burning home. When officers made entry, the second floor was filled with smoke.

They said being recognized by the FOP is an honor.

"It's not something you think about," Kotchig said. "You definitely don't go on a call thinking you're going to get an award for something."

North Versailles police Chief Vincent DiCenzo Jr. said he is proud of his officers.

"They went above and beyond the call of duty to go into a burning structure," he said. "It shows the character and dedication of my police department."

DiCenzo said Friday's recognition was not the first time North Versailles officers have received FOP awards.

In 2010, Kotchig and Pomaibo were honored. In 2006, then-Sgt. DiCenzo was recognized alongside fellow township officers Mark Hetherington, James Matrazzo and Thomas Nee. In 2004, Todd Corbett and Joseph Volker were honored.

FOP Awards Committee chairman Floyd Nevling, retired Pleasant Hills police chief, said it's important for officers to be recognized by the peers who understand the dangers of their job.

"In the police service today, a lot of officers are upset about the increase in police murders nationally and in our region," Nevling said. "When I would go to work, I never went out the door thinking, 'This is it.' When it happens, you're never prepared."

Nevling said the FOP is proud to recognize dedicated officers.

"One thing we do is recognize officers for having done exceptional activities or made exceptional arrests," Nevling said. "All too often, police departments don't recognize their officers when they do something exceptional."

Nevling applauded DiCenzo for praising North Versailles officers consistently for a job well done.

North Versailles Township commissioner Russ Saula, who was present for the ceremony, said the township as a whole is undoubtedly proud of its officers.

"I'm just here to show support for them, for their service, for their valor," Saula said.

Additional officers recognized Friday were Jonathan Pawlowski and James Hredzak of Monroeville and Donald Hamlin and Daniel White of Wilkinsburg.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.