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ELKHART, Ind. — Three Elkhart police officers are being praised for their efforts in saving lives during a fire, Friday night.

The Elkhart Police Department says that Ptl. Bryce Moore and Ptl. Gavin Headley were responding to a separate call when they saw flames coming out of the third floor of a home on Jefferson St., in downtown Elkhart.

When they ran to the building, a woman in the backyard told them people were still inside. Fire crews were called and rushed to the scene, but the officers immediately ran in to being evacuating the building.

The officers when up an outside stairway to the third floor where they forced the door open. Thick smoke filled the area as officers began to evacuate people inside, but a man told Ptl. Moore that there was a woman that couldn’t walk.

Both of them carried her out, but another man tried to stop them. Elkhart police say that 27-year-old Zackary Freel refused to leave the building even as it was on fire. Freel blocked the staircase, but Ptl. Moore got the woman outside safely.

Once outside, Freel continued to interfere by preventing officers from attending to other individuals and he refused to leave the scene. Freel was arrested and preliminarily charged with two misdemeanors of Resisting Law Enforcement and Refusing to Leave an Emergency Area.

While this was happening a third officer arrived, Cpl. Nathanael Eddy. Him and Ptl. Headley evacuated the house’s basement, then as a precaution they also evacuated the surrounding homes.

Nine people had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, primarily smoke inhalation.

The Fire Department continues to investigate the fire.

Elkhart Police Chief Seymore praised the officer’s works, saying, “I could not be prouder of our Patrol Division officers. I commend Ptl. Moore, Ptl. Headley, and Cpl. Eddy for their bravery and life-saving actions. They are a credit to our Training Division and our Department. I also commend our fellow first responders for their response that evening, particularly our firefighters and medics.”

Mayor Rod Roberson joined the police chief by saying, “We are grateful for the quick actions of our EPD officers. They didn’t hesitate when they saw those flames and their actions saved lives. I commend the work of these officers and of all the emergency personnel who responded to this fire.”