Milwaukee Police Department
On Tuesday, June 26, 1962, at 3:23 a.m., while on duty, City of Milwaukee patrolmen Robert Drakos and Robert Luczak discovered a rapidly spreading fire in the rear of a combination gas station and apartment on South 27th Street in Greenfield, WI. The officers radioed the fire to their dispatcher.
Although the fire had already found its way into the enclosed stairwell at the rear of the building, the officers were able to climb the stairs and after much difficulty, awoke the seven members of the Buchman family, five of which were children. But now, their exit was blocked as the flames had engulfed the only stairwell into the apartment. The family and the officers were trapped above the fire.
The officers used a phone from the apartment to call the Milwaukee Police Department for additional help. Before help came to them, officers Drakos and Luczak found a new exit at the front of the apartment and led the family through a kitchen window and onto an adjoining roof. A ladder was brought over to this roof and only after all the occupants had safely gotten to the ground, did the officers descend the ladder themselves. Another family member was living in the downstairs apartment and they were alerted to the fire and made their safe escape as well.
In the words of their Patrol Sergeant, Jerome Starke, “Both of these officers demonstrated their courage and above all, their ability to keep a cool head at a time when panic or indecision could have catastrophic results. These officers are to be commended.”
This rescue was made possible only by the grit and determination of two men, who without the aid of protective clothing, air packs, or hose lines, made their way through and above a fire that had the potential to put an early end to their lives as well as the lives of the seven members of the Buchman family.