A veteran Wellesley police officer just weeks from retirement was on his way to a traffic detail Monday afternoon when he discovered a house burning and dashed in to search for people amid flames and heavy smoke.
Rick Weaver, 62, noticed an orange glow in the sky at about 3:57 p.m., according to a police statement. When he went to investigate, he saw flames shooting out of the first floor of a ranch house at the end of Ashmont Road, a dead-end street near the Needham line.
Weaver radioed for assistance and then, with help from a passing FedEx delivery driver, forced his way inside.
No one was in the house, but officials praised Weaver for his bravery.
“There could have been a potential fatality, had Rick, with help from the FedEx worker, not made the choice to get the door open,” said Police Chief Terrence Cunningham.
The decision to race into a burning building, with no backup on the scene and no breathing equipment, is a tough one for any officer, Cunningham said. But Weaver did not know whether people were inside.
“For him to do something as courageous as that, I would totally expect it from him; it’s completely within his character,” said Cunningham. “I think Rick made the right call in this decision.”
The smoke inside the house was blinding, and Weaver could see fire coming from the garage area to the first floor where he was, according to police.
He moved past the fire and began checking the bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was directly above the fiercest part of flames, but Weaver searched it completely before checking the house again to make sure he had not missed anyone.
Only when Weaver was satisfied there was no one in the house did he evacuate.
“Police work is dangerous, but most of the time, when people come on the job, they come on with the mindset that they want to help people,” said Cunningham. “If theyhave to put themselves in harm’s way, so be it, right up until the day they retire.”
Wellesley firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire with help from Weston and Newton’s Fire Departments. The fire caused about $75,000 worth of damage, according to a fire official. There were no injuries.
The cause is under investigation, said Fire Captain Kevin Donahue, though it appears that the fire started at the front of the garage area and worked its way back.
Weaver has been on the force for 37 years and usually works in Dedham District Court as the Wellesley Police Department’s prosecutor, police said.
After the Fire Department made it to the scene, Weaver continued on to his traffic detail, said police Lieutenant Marie Cleary.