A police officer who put himself in harm's way to help a severely burned man - who turned out to be an arsonist - has received a special police award for his actions.

Taupō Police Constable Ben Jones was one of the first on the scene of a fatal house fire near Rangitaiki in March last year where mother Katie Bruce and her 4-month-old son Ash Millar died after Bruce's former partner and Ash's father Scott Millar poured petrol in the house.

A coroner later found Millar had intended to kill Katie Bruce, but not his son. Millar made it out of the house but died hours later from severe burns.

Jones received a District Commander's Certificate of Appreciation at a presentation in Taupō yesterday where Police staff were honoured for achievements.


On March 17, 2017, Constable Jones and his supervisor Sergeant Andrew Lynch were the first emergency services to arrive at the house, 35km from Taupo, which was engulfed in flames.

They were told that two people were trapped inside. While Lynch provided an urgent update to the other services, Jones ran to the house which was well ablaze.

The situation was extremely dangerous, with intense heat and burning debris falling.

Outside the house two men were by the front door, with one man trying to hose down a second man, Scott Millar, whose clothing had all burned off.

He had severe burns and was shouting that his baby boy was in the lounge. When Jones looked at the lounge area he saw the roof had collapsed and realised that the baby could not have survived.

He turned his attention to helping Millar, who was directly in the area where burning material was falling.

Given the severity of Millar's burns, Jones tried unsuccessfully to break down a nearby dog kennel to fashion a makeshift stretcher to move him without further damaging his skin.

Fire crews at the scene of the fatal house fire in March 2017. Photo / File
Fire crews at the scene of the fatal house fire in March 2017. Photo / File

Meanwhile, the hose had melted, the house was collapsing and only a couple of metres away petrol and vehicles in the garage were starting to explode.

Eventually Jones and Lynch had to manually pull Millar away from the burning house where they stayed with him until the ambulance arrived.


They were then able to help the first man, who had suffered severe smoke inhalation and was having difficulty breathing.

Senior Sergeant Phil Edwards, reading the citation, said fire service staff at the scene praised Jones for the way he had conducted himself.

"They said he was a great example of professionalism and empathy, putting others before himself in dangerous circumstances."

Jones said after the ceremony that the adrenalin had simply kicked in and he had done his best, although the heat was so intense that his high-vis vest was starting to crinkle, his skin felt tight all over and he only realised afterward that something had struck him on the arm while he was trying to help Millar.

"The intensity of the fire was just crazy. I couldn't believe how hot it was."

Besides Jones' award, the presentation included a Commissioner's Commendation for Taupō-based Detective Sergeant Andy Livingstone who re-investigated the Lundy murders after Mark Lundy's original conviction was quashed in 2013. Livingstone was based in Palmerston North at the time.

Retired Inspector Michael Wright received an Australian Federal Police Operations Medal with Ukraine clasp for his work helping identify the victims of flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014.

Police staff also thanked volunteer organisations and people who support the work of Police, including Land Search and Rescue, Neighbourhood Support, Community Patrols and Blue Light. Families were also given special mention for their support.