Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, left, and Mayor Bill Shearon, right, present Bradenton Beach Police Officer Steve Masi with a certificate of commendation. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
In January, an off-duty Bradenton Beach police officer’s quick actions went a long way to help a woman who had caught fire inside her Riverview home in January.
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale presented Officer Steve Masi with a certificate of commendation during the commission meeting March 20 at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
Speciale teared up while reading a letter of praise written by the woman’s daughter, Christy Wilson, which alerted Speciale to Masi’s heroic act.
The victim, Maria Hammond, eventually died from her injuries.
“I was going to write something in my own words about Officer Masi’s heroic deed, but when I received this letter from a member of the family, it was so moving I decided to read it aloud,” Speciale said. “So, if my voice quivers, it’s because it’s a very emotional thing for me because we are like family.”
Masi was off duty and visiting a friend in Riverview Jan. 4 when he noticed erratic behavior and heard the sound of a fire alarm coming from a home across the street.
He rushed into the house and found Hammond ablaze on the couch. Masi ran into the bathroom, dumped out a wastebasket and filled it with water from the tub faucet.
He then ran back to the living room and doused Hammond with water, putting out the fire.
Soon, other neighbors arrived to help Hammond, who suffered burns on 70 percent of her body, offering to cover her with a blanket.
Masi took control of the situation, allowing the woman to remain in an upright position on the couch until EMS could arrive. He also gathered towels and wet them with cool water to cover her burned body.
“The only way I can describe Officer Masi is that he is a man of true grit,” Wilson wrote in the letter. “To witness what he did that Saturday and be as cool-headed in his actions and as calmly communicative with my mom, speaks to me of a man whose calling is as a first responder, a police officer.”
Masi later told Wilson that her mother had been a “trooper” during the incident. He said she made eye contact with him and responded coherently to every question.
Hammond later died from the extensive injuries she suffered, but Wilson said she was thankful that Masi had been there to “assist, aide and comfort her in her extreme time of need.”
“I consider his response a huge indicator of the passion and commitment he has for people and for his profession,” Wilson wrote.