Firefighters perform heroic acts everyday and very few of these acts are noted and recognized. Firehouse.com, in conjunction with the Annual Firehouse Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards, will be featuring over the next few days, interviews with some of the winners as well as the complete winners lists just published in the recent April edition of Firehouse Magazine.
Miami-Dade, Fla. Captain Martha Scott
Florida Fire Captain Martha Scott was reporting for duty when duty called.
Scott, a member of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, was on her way to work early Sunday morning on April 2, 2006 when she spotted a blazing vehicle fire on Florida's Turnpike.
Scott says the scene looked bad. No drivers had stopped to help and no rescue had been called, so it was up to her to act.
"As I'm getting out of my vehicle, I see someone stagger off," she said. "I yelled out to them, 'Come back! Are you alright?'"
That person didn't answer, so she decided to inspect the scene herself. The vehicle had turned on its side after the crash, and Scott was surprised to find a leg sticking out beneath it.
"I thought, 'this person is probably dead -- the least I can do is get a pulse check to confirm it.'"
Because she was off-duty, Scott didn't have any of the tools that she would usually have when responding to a call. But, she remembered a hammer inside her truck.
The fire was heating up and growing in intensity. Scott began to hammer away at the vehicle's windshield.
Finally, she was successful. But, she says, as soon as the air hit the inside of the cab, the whole vehicle burst into flames.
Scott says the flames elicited a response from the formerly silent victim.
"A primal scream came from him," she says. "It's something I'll never forget."
As Scott continued her efforts, several other drivers began to stop. As the flames intensified, one person helped her as she dragged the victim out of the vehicle and away from the fire.
"As soon as I got him out, other hands were there to help me get him away from the vehicle," she says. "At that point, the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames."
The victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital with various injuries -- including a lacerated skull. The man was still conscious, but Scott knew his injuries were bad.
"I didn't expect much in terms of him living," she says. "Unfortunately, he did die."
Scott said that her rescue efforts were not in vain, however. Emergency workers were able to medicate the victim so that he was not in pain when he died.
Scott sustained some injuries as well. She had worked to rescue the man without the benefit gear to protect her from the flames, and sustained second-degree burns to her hands and face.
Scott says she still thinks about the event all the time.
"It was a horrible situation, knowing what you need to do and not having the equipment to do it."
The 23-year veteran called it a "worst-case scenario that came out the best it could."
And as for the man Scott saw running away from the scene? Firefighters located him and brought him back. He was uninjured.
For her efforts, Scott received a Purple Heart and a medal of valor from her department. But she is humble about her recognition.
"I think it was a slow, slow year," she says. "This isn't something you thought of doing, it's just something you happened upon -- it's something you do."
Brockton, Mass. Lt. Daniel Santry and Firefighters Kevin Galligan and George Eonas
Teamwork took center stage for a group of Brockton, Mass. firefighters during a rescue attempt last summer.
Lt. Daniel Santry and firefighters Kevin Galligan and George Eonas rescued a family of four from the third floor of a burning tenement house in the early hours of July 26.
Santry and Galligan were assigned to Tower 2 -- which arrived first -- and began searching trapped civilians.