Rumford police Patrolman Matthew Desroches, left, is presented a Heroism Award from the Maine Association of Police by Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley. (Submitted photo)
Roland “Rollie” Bousquet of Mexico stands with his wife, Sue, after receiving the Business Recognition Award from the Maine Association of Police. (Submitted photo)
RUMFORD — A Rumford police officer has received a Heroism Award from the Maine Association of Police for his actions during an apartment house fire on July 29.
Patrolman Matthew Desroches received the award at the 19th annual association awards banquet Jan. 27 in Portland.
Also honored was Roland “Rollie” Bousquet, owner of The Paper Plate in Mexico, who received the Business Recognition Award.
Desroches said his department had kept the award a secret.
“This was a surprise to me,” he said.
“I don’t like the attention on me, to be honest. Being recognized before 250 peers statewide, I’m wicked humbled by this.”
Desroches headed to 206 Cumberland St. when he saw the fire call last summer.
“Initially when I got there, it wasn’t too bad inside. There was heavy fire coming out of one apartment (on the second floor),” he said.
“There was a stairway on either end of the hall,” he said. “I went up on the far end, the opposite end of the fire room and went down toward the fire room to clear as close as I could to the fire. Fortunately, the majority of people were already out and nobody got hurt.”
He said the first firetruck showed up after he came out of the building.
Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley, who nominated Desroches for the award, said Desroches pulled the line off the firetruck and manned the first hose.
There was a 2-foot space between the burning building and an adjacent one and Desroches trained the hose to keep flames from spreading.
“It was a vacant building over there, but (the fire) could have been a lot worse.”
In the recent past, Rumford has been well represented at the awards banquet. Brad Gallant was Officer of the Year in 2017, and Higley received the same honor in 2013.
“In the law enforcement world, we are well respected as a law enforcement agency,” Desroches said.
Desroches talked about how he sees his job.
“There’s so much negativity (in the streets),” he said. “We have to try to be positive. We try to make a difference every day we’re on the job. If I can go home, knowing I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life, I think it was a good day.”
Bousquet received the Business Recognition Award.
“I was humbled,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. I really didn’t expect that type of thing.”
His community service includes donating supplies two or three times a year to the Franklin County Animal Shelter and publicly honoring emergency workers every Sept. 11 as a tribute to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
The tribute outside his Main Street business includes a handmade poster that says he’ll never forget.
“I stand out there for hours, and wave the flag and salute all those EMTs and police that go by in honor of their service and appreciation for what they do.”
Every year, around Christmas or Valentine’s Day, Bousquet buys treats for food baskets to present to about 10 area police and fire departments, EMTs, people working at the town garage, the town hall, the local credit union and others.
Named Mexico’s Citizen of the Year in 2016, he also purchased stuffed animals for the Police Department to hand out to children, built knick-knack birdhouses for people who’ve been hospitalized and don’t get visitors or are special needs people and paid an disabled woman’s grocery bill.
“A woman in a wheelchair didn’t have enough money to pay for what she was going to buy,” he said. “She started to cry. I said, ‘Don’t do that. You’ve got enough to take care of without that. You watch, you ring that all up and I’ll pay for it.'”
At the Hannaford pharmacy one day, Bousquet said, “An old fella, must have been in his 90s, was standing in line and took a $50 bill out of his wallet and said, ‘Well, that’ll be all I’ve got for this month; it’s either drugs or food.’ I stepped up and paid for it. He didn’t even know it, and I didn’t want to tell him. She gave him back the money, told him that it was all paid for.”
And while Bousquet no longer provides veterans’ meals monthly at The Paper Plate because of lack of participation, “I continue to do things for veterans the best that I can.”
If he finds an elderly veteran who can’t get out but is mobile, “I’ll go get him and take him or her out to see the world for a day,” Bousquet said. “Sometimes I’ll take them up to the museum in Augusta. One gentleman (90 years old) I took to Mount Washington because he said he hadn’t been up there since he was a kid.”
“Those are the types of things I do, and I do it all the time. And I never know what I’m going to do, or why,” Bousquet said.