BERLIN — In an emotional ceremony Monday, two Berlin Police Department (BPD) officers were honored for their actions during a vicious house fire that caused severe injuries in April.
While they weren’t the only heroes that day, the two officers were the first on the scene and responsible for pulling a trapped young girl to safety.
BPD Officers Merle Bragg and Edward Carmean were both recognized at Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting for their role in the response to the house fire that tore through a Branch Street home this spring.
“This is one of those proud occasions when the chief of police gets to stand before a community to praise the good deeds and works of their officers,” said BPD Chief Arnold Downing. “We often use the word ‘hero’ in loose terms, in loose ways, but today I can go ahead and say the Berlin Police Department has two heroes.”
Though the Berlin Fire Company (BFC) was quick to respond, Downing noted that Bragg and Carmean were the only emergency services available during the first few minutes and put themselves in harm’s way immediately when they realized that a young girl was trapped within the inferno.
“What they found, what they saw, was a small hand on the back of a rear window,” said Downing.
Once the officers spotted the victim, Bragg punched out the glass in the window while Carmean cleared the shards with his baton. The pair pulled the 6-year-old to safety. They also looked for a way to rescue the girl’s mother, 31-year-old Tocarra Derrickson, who was trapped on the house’s second story. Reaching Derrickson from the ground proved difficult due to the officer’s lack of equipment.
Luckily, the BFC arrived within minutes of receiving the call and fire personnel were able to reach Derrickson. Bragg and Carmean remained on scene and aided the firefighters where they could.
It is a story with many heroes, Downing said Monday, including the BFC, two members of which were hospitalized following the fire along with Bragg and Carmean, as well as the community. Many of Derrickson’s neighbors stepped up to help during and after the fire.
“We’re going to have a whole lot of heroes when it is all said and done, but I’m proud to say that I have two of them,” said Downing before officially recognizing Bragg and Carmean.
Though the fire was on April 17, Downing explained that the accolades were held until this week to give the Derrickson family the chance to heal and recover from the experience. Tocarra Derrickson received treatment at Johns Hopkins as well as the Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore. She entered the hospital in critical but stable condition. She was in attendance during Monday’s ceremony and described the officers as “angels” who had rescued her little girl.
“I just want to say thank you so much. When I was in the hospital, I just kept thinking, ‘who were these angels that got my daughter out?’ I just thank you all so much and may God bless you guys forever,” she said.
Tocarra Derrickson’s father, Gerald Derrickson, was in the audience and thanked the officers before embracing both of them.
Friends and family of the two officers were also in attendance during Monday’s meeting, including members of the armed services. Downing highlighted that both Bragg and Carmean have military experience and training that certainly came to their aid when responding to the fire.
“These guys have trained for that. Both of them have been active military and both are reservists,” Downing said. “I think you can see that through the commitment in this actual situation. It wasn’t just what they did, it’s how they continued.”
All told, firefighters from Berlin, Showell, Ocean City, Ocean Pines and Newark Volunteer Fire Companies responded to the call. It was a major fire and one that could have ended in a much more tragic outcome if not for the quick actions of responders.