Syracuse, N.Y. Firefighter Michael Chura

Even though Michael Chura was on vacation, he believes he was in the right place at the right time to save a woman from a wreck.


Covered in blood from tending to his patient, Chura decided he should probably find a way to decontaminate before talking to police and certainly before getting back into his vehicle and continuing on vacation.

"One of the state troopers had a bottle of antibacterial soap and I got some water from the fire department hoses as they broke down the line (to put out the car fire)," Chura said.

Chura later learned the woman suffered several concussions, a shoulder injury and a collapsed lung after the Jeep had rolled at least twice and hit a tree before landing on its roof. The woman survived and Chura has talked with her several times since.

"She's just so happy with the way things turned out," Chura said. "She was amazed that so many things happened and so many people came together for just a short period of time to help her out and then went on their way."

After clearing the scene, and heading on his way to vacation, Chura was nonchalant about the rescue and the fact he had saved a woman's life. In fact, he told his wife and daughter not to make a big deal about it and cautioned his daughter not to post it on Facebook.

He later realized that was a mistake. They had never seen their loved one do his job on such a personal an intimate level, witnessing it from start to finish.

"It was a little different having them witness what I do for work," Chura said. "I am the kind of guy who leaves work at the station and I don't bring it home."

Over the next couple of months, as family and friends started hearing what he had done, it began to sink in what he had done and how much it made a difference to the woman he saved.

He then realized that his family needed to process what they had witnessed and part of that was talking to people and telling them what they saw.

"I told them tell whoever they wanted and talk about it all they wanted," Chura said. "It just seemed like they needed to."

Although it turned out for the best, Chura would be the first to acknowledge that it could have turned out much differently. The vehicle was just seconds away from becoming a fire ball and not only could it have claimed the life of the woman, his too.

In fact, Chura said his wife prevented their daughter, who has training in sports medicine, from going anywhere near the scene. "She said she had no idea how bad it was going to get and didn't want our daughter in it too." From the sidelines, however, his daughter did take some photos of the incident, having grabbed the camera from the back of his vehicle.

For Chura, having his family there was a unique experience, but not as unique as being so intimately involved with saving someone's life.

"In all my 32 years in the fire service, it was like nothing I've experienced," Chura said, noting that he's been part of teams that have affected rescues and saved lives, but nothing as singular or personal as what he experience that day in New Jersey.

"If I hadn't happen on the scene exactly when I did, and things didn't go exactly the way it did, things would have been much different," Chura said. "I would say that 90 to 95 percent of those in the fire service, both volunteer and paid don't get to experience what I experience."

In addition to begin recognized by Firehouse with a heroism award, Chura said he will be receiving a Medal of Valor in New Jersey from the Atlantic Firefighters' Association and is a contender for a Carnegie Hero Medal for his actions.

"I guess it was a bigger deal than I originally thought," Chura said. "But it really was a matter of being in the right place at the right time."