Heroic duo honored for efforts


Sun staff writer
May 26. 2005 6:01AM
MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun

Gainesville Fire Rescue honored one of its own along with a Gainesville police officer Wednesday for risking their lives to save a man from a burning house minutes before it was engulfed in flames.

Firefighter Bill Blair received the medal of life-saving and GPD Officer Brett ****ndall received a medal of valor to a standing ovation from more than 70 fellow firefighters, police officers, family members and city officials who gathered at the Ironwood Country Club for the agency's annual awards ceremony.

Blair and ****ndall pulled Henry Ray, an elderly man, from a burning home at 505 SE 15th St. on Jan. 17 in the nick of time. The pair were across the street from the home responding to a medical call when one of the residents of the burning home ran over to alert firefighters of the fire and that someone was trapped inside the home.

That's when Blair and ****ndall ran through the smoke to the back of the home and found Ray, who was unconscious. The men freed one of Ray's legs, which had gotten caught on the door and pulled him to safety. Ray was transported to the hospital with critical injuries from burns, but later recovered and returned home.

Despite what their colleagues have called an "extraordinary rescue," all the attention was puzzling to the humble pair who said they were just doing their jobs.

"We had an opportunity you don't get very often to save someone," Blair said matter-of-factly. "Most anybody would've done the same thing."

A firefighter for 15 years, Blair said it feels good to be recognized, but putting his life on the line for another is just part of the job.

****ndall smiled sheepishly as he held his medal and plaque - a recognition he said he's thankful for.

"We did what had to be done and you don't think about the risks," ****ndall said. "I thought afterwards, 'I could've died doing that.' I think this helps put law enforcement in a more positive light because people sometimes focus only on the negative."

The men's selfless actions and quick thinking helped save Ray's life, Interim Chief Bill Northcutt said when he presented their medals.

"It's not very often we give these awards out," Northcutt said, "and when presented with these situations, we need public servants like them (Blair and ****ndall) who will rise to the challenge."

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan called the efforts of Blair and ****ndall "an inspiring story" that shows how teamwork and dedication transcends departmental boundaries.

"If they hadn't done what they did that man would not be here today," Hanrahan said. "It puts it into perspective for the community that these individuals really do save lives."

Among others recognized at the ceremony were Mable Parales as dispatcher of the year; Lt. Keith Saunders and Driver Operator Leslie Lane for their promotions; and Lt. John V. Mason, who recently retired.