THE intervention of a policeman stopped an armed man setting himself on fire and endangering others.

Sergeant Dave Kirton, of Darlington Police, received a Chief Superintendent’s Commendation for his courage today.

In June, a Darlington man armed himself with two knives and doused himself and a property on Minors Crescent with petrol, threatening to start a fire that could have engulfed the surrounding area and put several lives at risk.

Putting his own safety and protocol aside, Sgt Kirton approached the man and talked him into handing over his lighter, putting his knives down and surrendering to police.

Darlington’s Chief Superintendent Graham Hall said: “Through great dialogue, empathy and sensitivity he took control and took the heat out of the situation.

“He prevented an immediate risk to life and showed concern for someone at a great time of need.

“The award is for the courage, compassion, exceptional communication and overall professionalism that prevented a man armed with knives and soaked in petrol from inflicting injury on himself and others.”

Sgt Kirton said: “After 30-years of policing, the adrenaline doesn’t really rise much, I was just concerned about going up in flames as there were a lot of people watching and I had to wait to minimise the risk.

“He had a lighter in his hand and if he’d lit it, there would have been a blast and a big impact on the people around.

“I wasn’t frightened and I’m glad that he was able to access the support he needed – I told him it was the beginning of his life as he could meet the right people and get help.

“That’s what makes us stand alone as the British police force – we are compassionate and it’s not just about enforcement, it’s about looking after the community.”

Sgt Kirton also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for problem solving.

The award acknowledged the work of his team in dealing with issues arising from the West Park hospital in Darlington, which cares for those with mental health needs.

Chief Supt Hall said: “We had a rising number of incidents relating to the hospital and the kind of support they require and as a result of the increase, the team worked very closely with the hospital and its staff over a period of time, resulting in a reduction in the number of calls received.”