DISTRICT HEIGHTS, MD (WUSA) -- Two Prince George's County police officers rushed into a burning building and rescued a half dozen people from the flames -- but they're still haunted by three howling dogs that they were unable to save.
Lt. Scott Finn was on routine patrol. From blocks away, he saw a column of smoke rising from an apartment building on Rochelle Rd. He and Cpl Rickie Adey rushed in to save people inside who had no idea their lives were in danger.
Flames were roaring across the back of the building from the first floor up through the roof. "I could hear screams of people," said Lt, Finn, "But then I heard blood-curdling screams and yipes and yelps. And I didn't know what it was."
Lt. Finn, a 17-year veteran and former officer of the year, realized the terrifying baying was coming from a pitbull and puppy trapped on a burning balcony. He scorched his hand trying to climb up and toss the dogs over the railing to safety.
Then the two officers rushed around to the other side of the burning building to get more people out. "A couple of times, when I banged on the door, they asked me what I wanted," says Cpl Adey. "And I told them the building was on fire. And they asked me 'What for?' And I asked them to stand back, and I proceeded to kick in the door and I told them to exit the building right away."
The officers broke down more doors, helped a sleeping elderly woman down the stairs and then went back for another man who was still sleeping on an upper floor.
But the officers are still upset they were unable to do more. "There was another dog inside of an apartment, and I could hear the glass banging, and I could see it moving. I was hoping it wasn't a person. Come to find it was another dog inside. All those dogs burned up inside," says Lt. Finn.
Investigators know the fire started on the outside of the first floor. But they're still unsure what sparked it.
Dozens of people are homeless and just trying to salvage what they can.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com