Deputy Sheriffs Paul J. Archambault and John Rose
Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff's Department
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Deputy Sheriffs Paul J. Archambault and John Rose as its Officers of the Month for January 2003. Deputies Archambault and Rose are currently assigned to the Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff's Department, San Dimas Station.
Labor Day weekend 2002 promised to be relaxing and fun-filled for the approximate 10,000 visitors to the Angeles National Park, a 650,000 acre park in the San Gabriel Mountains, and residents of the surrounding area. Tragically, however, by 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 1st, despite strict fire restrictions, a blaze ignited that in the first hour consumed one thousand acres of forest. The "Curve Fire", has it came to be known, would over the course of 12 days, destroy more than 21,000 acres and seventy-two structures. A comprehensive wildfire evacuation plan, developed by the San Dimas Station personnel, is credited with the successful evacuation of thousands from the mountain.
Despite repeated efforts by deputies and her husband to bring her to safety, Sigrid Hopson refused to leave her cabin and was soon trapped by the quickly approaching firestorm. Mr. Hopson explained to the authorities that his wife, who had already lost her first husband and only son tragically, was armed with a .45 caliber pistol and was prepared to shoot herself and their three dogs to avoid being burned alive. This information was broadcasted and units were requested to respond to her location to affect a rescue. Deputies Archambault and Rose, located in the lower canyon responded that they would attempt to reach Mrs. Hopson's home.
Fearing for their safety, firefighting officials refused Deputies Archambault and Rose access to the area. Determined, however, to bring Mrs. Hopson to safety, the deputies drove off-road into the burning forest, navigating their way around burning brush and debris from rock slides and fallen timbers. The extreme heat took its toll on the deputies, both their arms were singed and most surfaces in their vehicle were too hot to touch.
When they arrived within a quarter mile of the cabin, it was apparent that the vehicle had sustained significant damage as well. Barely able to see through the dense smoke, the decision was reached that Deputy Archambault would remain with the truck in a small patch not yet consumed by fire, while Deputy Rose would run the quarter mile down a burning trail that led to the cabin. When he arrived, the deputy learned that Mrs. Hopson had already shot one of her dogs, and hoping for the best, had set the other two free. Refusing Deputy Rose's help, Mrs. Hopson pleaded with him to let her die by her own hand, rather than be burned alive. Tricking her into believing that she had convinced him, Deputy Rose was able to pull the gun from Mrs. Hopson's hand and escort her back down the burning trail to the waiting vehicle. With visibility down to mere feet, Deputy Archambault drove several miles, maneuvering the damaged patrol vehicle over burning roads, around large boulders and debris. With its undercarriage having caught fire and with two flattened tires, the vehicle came to a stop within walking distance of fellow rescuers. Deputies Archambault and Rose had braved a huge, deadly fire to save an elderly woman who was surely minutes from death when they arrived at her cabin.
Remarkably, authorities searching the area after the fire found that not only was Mrs. Hopson's home one of only three cabins in the Soldier Creek area that survived the inferno, but both of her dogs were alive and well.
Deputy Paul J. Archambault is a twenty-year veteran of the LA County Sheriff's Department, having served at the San Dimas Station since March 2000. His varied assignments include traffic deputy, station jailer, station watch deputy and Field Training Officer. He is married to a retired Los Angeles County deputy and they have one daughter.
Deputy John Rose joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in March 1991 and has been at the San Dimas station since October 1997. In May 1999 he received a "Commendable Restraint" award for actions taken involving an armed felon in a campground in the Angeles National Forest. He is a member of the Army Reserves' 315th Psychological Warfare Operations Unit, is married and has one son.
When recalling the events of September 1, 2002 both deputies state that they were fortunate to be at the right place, at the right time in order to help Mrs. Hopson. Both contend, however, that they did nothing especially heroic. As Deputy Rose stated, "Any one of our brothers would have attempted the same."