Police officer saves five, says she’s not a hero

Officer Lisa Gerbig saves Onalaska family from burning home

Late Monday night Ben Miller and Crystal Miller’s home on Fourth Avenue in Onalaska caught on fire because of electrical reasons. Since the fire started in the attic there weren’t any smoke detectors nearby, so no alarms went off. Instead it was the pounding of Onalaska Police Officers Lisa Gerbig and Nikki Miller’s fists that were able to wake the family of five inside.

Lisa Gerbig would never call herself a hero.

“I’m no hero, this is a team effort,” Gerbig said.

But just before midnight Monday she became one.

“Officer Nikki Miller, and I were riding together and it seemed like it was really foggy out,” Gerbig said.

It wasn’t fog, though.

“I looked to my left and I saw black smoke rolling out of a home,” Gerbig said.

“I immediately alerted dispatch and we exited our vehicle and began pounding and knocking on every door we could get to,” Gerbig said.

The sound woke Ben Miller and he told the officers that his two sons were sleeping in the basement.

Gerbig and the father tried to reach the boys through their bedroom window in the basement, while Nikki Miller spoke with other officers arriving on scene.

“We shouted through the window for the boys to open the window and once they were up we pulled both boys out,” Gerbig said. “Once we got around the house the mom and the child were on the front sidewalk.”

The Onalaska Fire Department arrived within minutes, and put the phone out within an hour and a half.

“There were 19 firefighters on the scene,” Onalaska Fire Chief Don Dominick said.

He said the fire was more difficult to put out because of the design of the home.

“When you have additions that are put on structures that have been around awhile there are other barriers that hide were the fire is at, so it’s tougher,” Dominick said.

Gerbig said the rescue was a team effort.

“Once the call went in everybody was there to help and it went quite smoothly considering the circumstances, so I’m really proud of that,” Gerbig said.

In addition to the family, three dogs were saved, and the family’s three cats were found alive and well the next day. With a collapsed roof and significant water damage the house is a total loss.

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