Virginia Firefighter Performs Daring Rescue, Not His First

The lines had come down across a mini-van, the occupants were trapped, torrents of rain fell, Lt. Steven Traylor responded.

Lt. Steven Traylor is a firefighter currently serving as a Tactical Safety Officer for Chesterfield Fire and EMS. He is a firefighter who takes his work to heart. Some of the rescues this dedicated public servant has been involved in are not for the faint of heart.

On Tuesday, July 17, storms raged in part of Chesterfield County, Lt. Traylor was poised and ready to respond. His quarters is located at Centralia Station #17.

As the storms began to pound parts of Chesterfield, Lt. Traylor waited. "I wasn't at 17 during the storms," he said. "I didn't know which way I was going to be sent so I was parked at Chesterfield Courthouse area so I would be in the center of the area and cut down on my reponse time."

That pre-planning choice paid off. A call was dispatched for a tree down, lines across a vehicle, people trapped at Ironbridge and Beach Road. Engine #15 from Chesterfield Airport Station was dispatched. They headed out immediately facing backed up traffic and torrential rain. Traylor shifted into high gearS since he was closer he arrived first.

"I assessed the situation and discovered cable wires down across the windshield of the mini-van and a hot wire (live electric) across the back end of the vehicle. Traffic was at a stand still. The tree that fell pulling the wires down was in a nearby yard. The rain was pounding and blinding. I relayed to dispatch the situation."

Trees and powerlines were falling throughout the area while Lt. Traylor worked.

After a few moments of radio silence between Lt. Traylor and dispatch, through the sounds of the storm raging, a male voice said, "Chesterfield, situation under control."

Traylor explained, "I removed the cable wires from the windshield of the mini-van, then instructed the driver to go forward. That moved the vehicle from under the live wire that was touching the back of the mini-van. The occupants were okay, just shaken up. They didn't want to be checked out they just wanted to get home. Fortunately no one was injured."

Recently, on March 2, Lt. Traylor once again risked his life for a citizen. A call was dispatched for a vehicle accident on Centralia Road with occupant possibly trapped. Dispatched were firefighters from Centralia Station #17 and a Special Rescue Team from Dutch Gap Station #14.

Battalion Chief Lee Williams described the scene. "Lt. Steve Traylor, one of our Tactical Safety Officers, arrived on scene first and found a single vehicle accident with the person trapped and the vehicle on fire."

"I arrived," Traylor recounted, "and saw a car had run off the road and into a chain link fence. The exhaust system was punctured and the gas fumes ignited. I saw several citizens dipping water from a ditch attempting to throw water on the fire. The smoke was thick, black, rolling, blinding and choking. You couldn't see anything from it, you couldn’t see the vehicle occupant through it. I took a deep breath, then held my breath and reached in through the smoke, trying to locate the man. Finally I felt his body and couldn't remove him. His legs were trapped and were holding him in. He had a shirt or cloth covering his face trying to breath through the blackness."

"I gave a Chesterfield police officer my fire extinquisher," Lt. Traylor continued, "then I grabbed one off an ambulance which had then arrived. The officer and I worked to knock down the fire. We pulled the man as far out of the car as we could so he could be out of the bad smokey air. The arriving firefighters extinquished the blaze with the hoses and we finally were able to extricate the man. Med-Flight then transported the patient to VCU Medical Center."

Lt Steven Traylor received a Benjamin Franklin Medal of Valor Award for his rescue efforts during the Gaston floods in 2004.

During Gaston, the 1-3 inches of rain that was predicted by forecasters became 12-15 in the affected areas. Torrental flooding occurred in a very short time. The massive power of the water which was rising feet by the second, washed away roads, swept away cars, demolished bridges and trapped residents.

Chesterfield Tactical Safety Officer Lt. Steve Traylor, firefighters William Jeffords and Michael Harrell were part of the firefighter team that performed a Falling Creek Apartments rescue.

Falling Creek was overflowing and raging. Apartments and trailer parks in its area were flooded quickly and the water continued to rise. County and Fire Officials feared the nearby dam would burst making an already dangerous situation catastrophic. The usually gentle creek that ran behind the apartment complex was spilling its banks.

Residents had become trapped, portions of the building began to collapse with brick walls crumbling. The water was rising, showing no mercy, submerging the lower levels and reaching upward until and residents had no where to go.

Chesterfield Fire and EMS positioned an aerial ladder truck beside the raging waters. There was danger of the aerial ladder overturning as the water continued its onslaught. The ladder was extended but it was just a little too short to reach. At extreme risk to their own lives these members of Chesterfield's Bravest, placed a ladder ontop of the aerial ladder and crossed to the apartments, going into the collapsing structure and handing out 12 individuals which included children and adults.

In another section of the apartments, holes were cut in the roof, firefighters dropped through. Trapped victims on the other side of the wall heard the welcome sound of firefighters breaching the wall and reaching them. There was no loss of life in a situation that would have proven fatal had firefighters not placed their lives on the line. With the firefighter's heroic acts, all trapped residents were saved.

Traylor, Jeffords and Harrell received Medals of Valor from Chesterfield Fire and EMS in October 2004. At the Fire-Rescue International Conference and Exposition in Denver, they each received an International Benjamin Franklin Service Award for Valor.

These awards are the highest bestowed by The International Association of Fire Chiefs and cosponsored by Motorola,Inc.