Auburn Police duo took time off to save home, horse

Dispatcher, officer to jointly receive award Wednesday
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Officer Mike Metzner and dispatcher Linda Steinle were never called to help when a raging blaze tore through 900 acres of rural Lincoln land last September. But that didn’t stop the Auburn Police Department employees from asking for time off to go help residents whose homes and animals were in danger. At the annual Placer Law Enforcement Agencies award on Wednesday, Metzner and Steinle will be among a select group of law enforcement officers receiving recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty. The duo will receive the Chaplain’s Award, which is given to an individual who, outside of the scope of his or her employment, demonstrates a sacrificial spirit of volunteerism and service to his or her community. “Because of their actions they completely demonstrate the criteria for the Chaplain’s Award,” said Auburn Police Chief Valerie Harris. On Sept. 1, 2008, when the Gladding Fire broke out, Metzner and Steinle were in Auburn’s dispatch center monitoring calls over the scanner. “As you listened to dispatch, you could tell things were getting out of control pretty fast,” Metzner recalled. Metzner said he knew a couple who were close family friends who had a house in the area near where the blaze started. The couple was on vacation and not home. Metzner asked the sergeant at the time if he could use vacation time to take off to help and Steinle asked for the same. She said she had a horse trailer and could help evacuate trapped barn animals for anyone in need. When they arrived, Metzner drove to his friend’s home and Steinle went to the neighbor’s barn to rescue their mini horse. Steinle said the scared horse would’ve been quite intimidating to handle had he not been smaller. She said she was able to wrangle him into her trailer and take him back safely to her home. “It was burning all around and the trailer was filled with smoke,” Steinle said. “The fire was burning right up to the driveway but it wasn’t heavy brush.” In the meantime, Metzner ran into his friend’s home and grabbed wedding photos, a laptop and a few other valuables. Firefighters initially on the property had to leave to try to contain the fire at other danger spots. But Metzner stayed. Using a garden hose, the Auburn Police officer sprayed down flames as they encroached closer and closer to his friend’s home. Metzner said heavy smoke clouded the area as he watched a nearby barn be consumed by flames. “I’ve never seen anything like that before up close and personal,” Metzner said. “When that started on fire, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can stay here much longer.’” Fortunately, Metzner said, the wind was blowing at enough of an angle that the fire wasn’t headed directly for his friend’s home. It was until late that night that he was able to break down a smoldering woodpile lined up against the garage and extinguish those flames. Both Metzner and Steinle said they do not feel like their actions warranted an award. “I didn’t think it was necessary and I didn’t think I’d done anything special,” Metzner said. “It wasn’t a decision that I had to make. It was just something you’ve got to do – that’s just what you do for people.” Steinle added that she was just one of many people with horse trailers trying to help their neighbors. She said she feels lucky that the police department had enough staffing that day to let her and Metzner take time off to help. “It was awesome that Auburn Police Department let us go there,” Steinle said. Harris, however, would disagree with Steinle and Metzner. The police chief said she is proud of her staff for finding a way to help people in need. “They represent the types of folks that we have working here for the City of Auburn,” Harris said. “I’m very proud of their actions.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- Get to know Mike Metzner Job duty: Auburn Police Officer Well-trained: Metzner enjoys training police canines for duty Hobbies: Fishing, camping, hunting ---------- Get to know Linda Steinle Job duty: Auburn Police Department dispatcher Rescuer: Steinle owns three rescue horses that roam on her 10 acres of land. The horses are named Paaso, Comet and Princess Buttercup. She also has a boarder horse named Promising River. Hobbies: Riding horses, photography, scrapbooking and hiking ---------- PLEA awards What: The annual Placer Law Enforcement Agencies awards honor officers from all county police departments and the sheriff’s office who go above and beyond the call of duty. When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4 Where: Rocklin Sunset Center, 2650 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin Cost: Free and open to the public ----------