Colo. firefighter recognized with heroism award for tackling suspected arsonist

Longmont Fire Lt. Mike Burelson was honored by a nonprofit organization for stopping a man holding a lighter at a fire scene


Kelsey Hammon
Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

LONGMONT, Colo. — A Longmont firefighter who tackled a suspected arsonist inside a burning building in August was honored Sunday for his efforts.

Fire Lt. Mike Burelson received the Heroism Commendation and Medal from the Colorado Society Sons of the American Revolution, a historical, educational and patriotic nonprofit. The award recognizes those who have demonstrated “bravery and and self-sacrifice,” according to the organization’s website. Burelson was given the award at the George Washington Luncheon in Littleton.

Michael Schrodt, 55, is accused of arson in an August hardware store fire. Longmont Fire Lt. Mike Burelson was honored this week with a heroism award for tackling Schrodt, who was reportedly holding a lighter at the scene. (Photo/Longmont Fire, Police and Community Health and Resilience Facebook)
Michael Schrodt, 55, is accused of arson in an August hardware store fire. Longmont Fire Lt. Mike Burelson was honored this week with a heroism award for tackling Schrodt, who was reportedly holding a lighter at the scene. (Photo/Longmont Fire, Police and Community Health and Resilience Facebook)

Rick Neeley, president of COSSAR, said Burelson represents the men and women who protect their communities every day.

“It was an honor for us to present Lt. Mike Burelson with our Heroism Medal and Certificate for his actions,” Neeley said in an email.

Burelson said he was grateful for the award, but he was quick to note that it was the teamwork of first responders that led to the suspect’s arrest and resulted in no one being injured, despite the dangerous situation. That night, he said, he was working with Fire Cmdr. David Cropp; firefighters Cody Trevithick, Jerrod Hurley, Micah Holmes; and Patrick Kramer, an engineer and spokesperson for the fire department.

“The only reason I could do that was because I knew the guys were there and would back me up,” Burelson said. “This wasn’t just me, it was the whole team.”

At 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, firefighters rushed from Fire Station 6 to Budget Home Supply, 780 Boston Ave. — about a half mile away — for a triggered fire alarm.

A rock ash tray had been pushed into a glass door, which Burelson said indicated that someone had made an entry into the building supplies and hardware store. Inside the business, Burelson said, smoke hung in the air and he could see an “active” column of smoke about 20 yards from where he stood.

Burelson and Holmes found roughly five areas inside the store that were on fire. They also discovered they weren’t the only ones in the store.

“I saw Micah stop. When I caught up to him, standing behind the counter was this gentlemen,” Burelson said. “It caught me be surprise.”

The man, who would later be identified as Michael Schrodt , did not respond to commands to come toward the firefighters, Burelson said. With Holmes concentrating on fighting the flames, Burelson focused on the suspect.

“I noticed that he had a barbecue lighter in his hand,” Burelson said. “It looked like he was continuing to try to start a fire in the area. At that point, I decided to make a run and tackle him.”

Burelson wrestled Schrodt to the ground. With the help of fellow firefighters, Burelson was able to get Schrodt outside of the building. Schrodt was cleared by medical staff before he was taken into custody.

Longmont Fire Chief Jerrod Vanlandingham commended Burelson, a 17-year veteran of the fire department, for his work.

“Risking his own life, and for the safety of his crew, Lt. Burelson tackled the arsonist and subdued him,” Vanlandingham said. “His crew from Engine 6 then assisted with removing the man from the building where Longmont police took him into custody.”

Schrodt, 55, has been charged with first-degree arson, criminal mischief more than $100,000, second-degree burglary of a building and obstructing a firefighter or medical person. Schrodt is in Boulder County Jail custody on a bond of $100,000. He is next expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Monday.

Burelson said that had he not been able to successfully tackle Schrodt, Schrodt’s own safety likely would have been in jeopardy.

“Any longer and there were some areas that could have grown into significant fire,” Burelson said.

Firefighters’ efforts and the sprinkler system helped to contain the flames. A store manager approximated that water and smoke damage inside the store could be close to $500,000, according to prior reports on the incident.

Vanlandingham said the award Sunday sends a message to the community about the work Longmont’s firefighters do.

“Lt. Burelson is the real deal,” Vanlandingham said. “He and his crew protect the south side of Longmont out of Station 6. As a chief, it’s comforting to know that we have so many men and women within the Fire Services Division that are highly skilled and talented and are willing to put their lives on the line every day when they step into the fire house.”

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©2020 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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