Farmville, LU officers are community heroes

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When we covered the lightning-related fire at Longwood Landings Northeast, Longwood University  spokesman Matt McWilliams praised the actions of LU Police Department Sgt. Walter Whitt and Officer Billy Shular.

McWilliams said Shular and Whitt acted “really and truly heroically.” They “literally … evacuated the whole building themselves…. They were the first on the scene. They smelled the smoke. They got everybody out of there…. They deserve a lot of credit,” he said.

Since our initial reporting, we’ve also learned the following Farmville Police Department officers responded to the scene and assisted with the evacuation: Sgt. Harvey Hoyle, Cpl. Christie Booth and officers Chris Hudson and Jordan Seay.

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“These four officers displayed an outstanding example of heroic service in the performance of their duties (that) evening,” Acting Police Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington said.

We concur on all counts.

When lightning struck the building, it managed to take out its alarm system. That’s what brought officers out in the first place — to check on the system and figure out what was wrong. Responding as quickly as they did, and then realizing something much more was wrong, led to evacuating all four Landings buildings in a quick and orderly fashion.

This is important because the fire could have spread beyond the northeast building to the others.

Luckily, this didn’t happen. Officers called for firefighters, bringing eight companies out to put out the flames, keep them from spreading and making sure there were no other hot spots.

While the northeast building suffered quite a bit of damage, LU’s property loss is likely going to be far less than it might otherwise have been.

More important, these officers’ actions likely saved the lives of a number of students.

For all this, the entire community should thank Shular, Whitt, Hoyle, Booth, Hudson and Seay.