Former firefighter Neal St. Onge said instinct to help kicked in, but he didn’t believe his good deed would end with him seated in the back of a police cruiser.
“Had a fire in the rear of the building that spread into the roof,” said Chad Wagner, Lake St. Louis Fire Protection District Assistant Chief.
But before fire crews got to the scene, St. Onge, who lives two miles from the subdivision, said he was already putting out the fire with a garden hose.
“When I was coming up on Lake St. Louis Boulevard, I saw smoke that didn’t look natural and I pulled into the subdivision,” he said.
St. Onge said he got out of the car as quickly as possible, instructed his passenger to call 911, and then decided to run into the home to make certain people got out safely.
St. Onge said he continued hosing down as much as possible until fire crews showed up.
“And then police kept telling me, ‘Get off the walkway.’ They said, ‘You are in danger.’ I said, ‘No, no, I’m not; I’m a former firefighter,’” he said.
St. Onge admits he didn’t follow orders from police.
“And I kinda went off on him and said a few things and they put me in cuffs,” St. Onge said.
St. Onge said he spent about 40 minutes in the back of the police cruiser and was eventually released. He was ticketed for failure to comply with a police officer.
“I know I did the right thing and I think, in my opinion, the policemen overreacted,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Lake St. Louis Police Department said the former state lawmaker was held for a time because he was going after a firefighter at the scene.
Police said St. Onge was trying to put the fire out on the back deck, but the fire was below the deck. They turned off the garden hose he was using because fire crews were arriving on scene.
They said crews on scene were trying to protect him for his own safety and he refused to heed their warnings.
St. Onge pointed to the marks left from the handcuffs, but said he doesn’t regret it.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” he said. “Sometimes when you do the right thing you get in trouble for it.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No one was hurt during the fire.