FOREST LAKE, MN — Forest Lake Police Officer Tom Cockburn weighed his options: somewhere inside that burning building, a person was trapped. He was the first person on the scene, and he knew Forest Lake Fire and Rescue was still a few minutes away. He could either take his chances and rush in to help the victim, or wait for the firefighters to arrive and risk the life of whoever was inside.
He made a split-second decision: his instinct was to help no matter the circumstances, and he rushed into the burning building.
At the most recent Forest Lake City Council workshop, Cockburn received the Award of Distinguished Service for his actions in the face of danger. Doug Berglund, deputy chief of Forest Lake Fire and Rescue, described the incident that earned Cockburn the honor.
On the evening of Dec. 19, 2016, Forest Lake police and fire were called to a house fire on the south side of Clear Lake, with a possible trapped victim. A dispatcher confirmed that an adult female was located on the second floor of the residence, and unable to get out.
Cockburn was on routine patrol nearby, and was the first police officer to arrive on scene. When he arrived, he observed smoke coming from the front door. The fire department was still a few minutes away, but Cockburn assessed the situation and determined that immediate action was required. Through smoke, he entered the house, located the trapped woman and carried her to safety.
“Police Officer Tom Cockburn displayed selfless courage that cold December night when he entered a smoke-filled house and carried a trapped victim to safety,” Berglund said. “It is with great pride and respect for his courageous effort that I am presenting Police Officer Tom Cockburn with the Award of Distinguished Service.”