It was a typical Saturday morning for Granite School District Police Officer Philip Afonso as he was taking advantage of his day off to run errands – or so he thought.
As Officer Afonso was returning to his home, he noticed heavy black smoke coming from the area near Sentinel Ridge Blvd. and 14300 South in Herriman. Afonso rushed to the area where the smoke was billowing from and encountered an attached garage on fire.
“It was just black with dark heavy smoke,” Afonso said. “The garage was already starting to meltdown; the flames were really heavy and there was nobody on the street just yet. Judging by the nature of the fire, the fire had been going on for a while, but I doubt anyone was aware of it because it had started in the garage.”
Crediting his police training, Afonso quickly rushed into action. Hearing popping noises and small explosions from the garage, he sprinted to the front door of the attached townhome and made entry. Officer Afonso shouted “police” as he began searching the home for anyone who may be inside. A man in his 30s who was on the second floor responded to Afonso’s calls and came down the stairs. The man, who Afonso said appeared to be in a confused state, opened the door to the attached garage where he was surprised to find heavy black smoke and flames.
The man then went back up the flight of stairs telling Officer Afonso that his son and roommate may be home as well. Afonso followed the man upstairs where it quickly became clear that there were no other individuals home at the time.
“There was lots of smoke, and it was really hot and I told the man ‘we’re leaving – we’re getting out,’” Afonso said. He then promptly escorted the dazed man down the stairs and out of the burning home to safety.
Afonso left the man in the care of neighbors on the street as he rushed around the side of the home to report the exact address to 911 dispatch and see if the fire was spreading to any nearby homes.
“All of the sudden the garage just exploded,” Afonso said as he explained how quickly the fire escalated as soon as he brought the man out of the burning home. “Right as I got him out of the house the second floor collapsed. Had I not arrived when I did and helped that man out of the house, it’s likely he wouldn’t have made it out alive.”
Shortly after the garage exploded and the second floor of the home collapsed, fire crews arrived and began attacking the blaze.
Officer Afonso was treated on scene and later at the hospital for smoke inhalation.
While being monitored at the hospital, Afonso had a moment to reflect on his heroic actions. “I know what my job means, and I know what it entails, but nobody can prepare you until you actually experience what it means to do something for someone else and that your life might be on the line. It enlightened me knowing what my job means and I’m honored to do it.”
Officer Afonso has been with the Granite Police Department for two years. He is a Graduate of Granite – Skyline High School, Class of 2014, and credits his decision to become a police officer to the strong influence of his School Resource Officer while he was a student.