Firefighters battle the July 26 fire in Brockton, Mass.
Photo credit: Photo by Robert Myers
Brockton, Mass. Firefighters George Eonas, Lt. Kevin Galligan and Lt. Daniel Santry
Photo credit: Firehouse Magazine
Miami-Dade Captain Martha Scott
Photo credit: Firehouse Magazine
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.
Galligan said that by the time they got there, seven people had already jumped from the second floor. As the two firefighters made their way to the back of the house, they could hear the screams of a grandmother who was holding a baby out of the window by its wrists.
Since the area behind the building was crowded and narrow, they opted to use a 35-foot ground ladder to reach the woman.
"We knew the only way to get over to her was to use ground ladder," Santry said. "Once the ladder was in place, Kevin took the baby from her and handed it back to me."
As the grandmother was led out to safety, she notified the firefighters that her two daughters were still in the building. Galligan climbed into the window to check for them.
"It took me about two crawling steps before I found the first one," he said.
He said both women retreated to a bathroom as the fire spread throughout the building. Galligan said the conditions were some of the worst he has seen.
"There was total absolute zero visibility," he said. "The companies had to do a blitz attack with deck guns" to control the fire.
After transporting the first woman to the window, Galligan knew he couldn't go at it alone. "I grabbed Lt. Santry and told him he had to come in with me," he said.
The second woman -- Sandra Calderon, the mother of the child -- proved a tough task for the two firefighters as they began to fatigue as conditions worsened.
By the time Galligan and Santry moved Calderon to the window, they were too tired to lift her out. That's when Eonas came in to assist the two firefighters in the rescue.
Galligan had brought a thermal imaging camera into the fire, but was unable operate it in the cramped space. "I couldn't lift it to my face," he said.
Fortunately, he left the imager in the house while he pulled out the first woman, and said it came in handy when they went back in for the second as it was sitting right in front of the second woman.
Despite their attempt to save Calderon, she died a few days later from smoke inhalation.
"I still to this day regret not being able to get (Calderon) out" on my own, Galligan, who was promoted to lieutenant two months after the rescue, said. "You do your best and that's the best you can do."
Soon after the fire, Santry received a card from the family, thanking him and the other two firefighters for their efforts.
Asked if he had ever been involved in a rescue attempt of this magnitude, Santry said, "No not this dramatic or intense really. There was no time for a hose line or anything for this.
"Going to the fire, I knew it was going to be bad. Once we were ascending the ladder, I knew we weren't going to have much time to attempt a rescue."
What makes the rescue even more remarkable is the fact that the three firefighters weren't used to working on the same crew. Both Santry and Galligan said the entire operation ran smoothly.
"The biggest thing that I got out of it was that the training we get from this department really prepared us for the worst of the worst," Santry said. "All the things I learned here came like clockwork."
Galligan echoed his comrade's sentiment, "Nothing goes flawless, but it went just like we planned for ... There was no stopping; there was no discussion."
2007 Firehouse Heroism Awards
Grand Prize Recipient
- Firefighter James T. Byrne, FDNY Ladder 121
After leading a probationary firefighter to a refuge area, he crawled 22 feet under wind-driven flames to rescue a downed firefighter. He carried him back to safety.
- Assistant Chief Tim Bradley, Mebane, NC, Fire Department
Arriving before fire apparatus, he entered a well-involved mobile home to rescue a child without SCBA or a hoseline.
- Firefighter Joseph W. Donatelli, FDNY Ladder 132
After being lowered from the roof on a rope, rescued a woman trapped on the 25th floor as fire burned on the two floors below.
- Lieutenant Albert Cinotti, West Islip, NY, Fire Department, Company 4
While returning home from the firehouse, he came upon a house fire and without any protective equipment, entered the structure and removed an elderly male. Moments after he exited the structure, the room flashed over.
- Firefighter Thomas McGlade, FDNY, Ladder 14
After being extended by tower ladder into the East River, he rescued a man 120 feet from the shore as he was being swept by strong currents.
- Captain James W. Kitson FDNY, Ladder 47
Crawled into an apartment fire to locate an unconscious man. He dragged the victim to safety.
- Captain Peter Melly, FDNY, Division 7
While attempting to shut the door to an apartment while several firefighters were trapped by 50-mph wind- fueled flames, he was hit by a stream and lost his helmet and face piece. He suffered second-degree burns
- Firefighter George Eonas, Brockton, MA, Fire Department, Tower 2
After helping remove one victim of a house fire to safety, he stayed with another victims until a safe means of egress was found.
- Firefighter Kevin Galligan, Brockton, MA, Fire Department, Tower 2.
Arriving first at a house fire, he used a ladder to rescue two occupants. He later located and removed two more victims.
- Lieutenant Daniel Santry, Brockton, MA, Fire Department, Tower 2
With firefighters Eonas and Santry, located and removed two victims after assisting an infant and woman down a ground ladder at a house fire.
- Joshua Allen, Fairfax County, VA, Fire & Rescue
While off duty and without PPE, he witnessed a car hit traffic pole. He positioned his car for scene safety, broke window with tire iron to gain access to multiple patients, and maintained cervical immobilization of elderly patient.
- Terrance Andrews, Chattanooga, TN, FD
Responding to medical call, he noticed smoke but was unable to reach woman due to fire. He cleared window bars barehanded after attempting with ax, and pulled woman through window.
- Mauricio Arenas, Miami-Dade, FL, Fire Rescue
While off duty with his sons, he performed life-saving rescue on second floor of apartment without PPE or SCBA. He suffered smoke inhalation.
- Peter Bagdovitz, Washington, DC, FD
He performed high-angle technical rescue in small single bank elevator with five people trapped. He removed victims 65 feet from top of elevator car to shaft way doors.
- Albert Boyd, Baltimore City, MD, FD
He searched ahead of charged hoseline in burning apartment, found and removed child. With PPE smoking and burning, he re-entered and helped find second child.
- Jeremie Brenahan, Coon Rapids, MN, FD
He placed 35-foot ladder, entered apartment with no SCBA and rescued victim. Later, he moved ladder to adjacent apartment to remove more victims.
- Jason Buttenshaw, Fairfax County, VA, Fire & Rescue
While participating in a marathon, he witnessed a man collapse. He and another off-duty firefighter performed CPR until medics arrived.
- Kelly Byrne, Washington, DC, FD
He performed high-angle technical rescue in small elevator with five people trapped. He completed rigging of final victim by himself.
- Chris Chacon, Phoenix, AZ, FD
While on vacation, he heard that an 11-year-old girl was drowning. He swam out in strong undertow to rescue her. He later returned for her uncle, but had to turn back due to vomiting water and physical exhaustion.
- Jeffrey Chaffin, Houston, TX, FD
He used a saw to force barred window, searched apartment with thermal imaging camera, located and removed three children.
- Jeffrey Coffman, Fairfax County, VA, Fire & Rescue
While traveling off duty, came upon three-vehicle crash. Without PPE or first aid equipment, he triaged and treated multiple patients. He also assisted with extrication of trapped patient
- Denise Dicken, Prince Georges County, MD, FD
Traveling home after shift, she came upon crash in which the vehicle's engine burst into flames. She grabbed fire extinguishers from passing motorists to quell the flames. Later, she assessed and treated the patient.
- Timothy Dowd, Washington, DC, FD
He assisted with high-angle technical rescue of five people trapped in small elevator.
- Jason Earl, Fairfax County, VA, Fire & Rescue
He ran into a structure without protection of a hoseline, but quickly exited due to heavy fire and smoke conditions. He went back in with a hose, and eventually located and rescued two victims.
- Raymond Edwards, Bladensburg, MD, VFD
Under heavy fire conditions, he dug man out from under debris and pulled him to safety. The debris included 50 years of newspapers. He suffered minor burns.
- Kevin Franzello, Manassas, VA, VFC
Operating hoseline, he heard call for help. He crawled to rear of home, and assisted in removal of obese patient.
- Michael Frezza, Manssas, VA, VFC
He entered house fire without the benefit of SCBA or hose. He assisted in removal of 400-pound victim.
- Brandon Frieder, College Park, MD, VFD
Searching ahead of hoseline in low visibility and high heat conditions, he assisted in removing victim from small, cluttered apartment.
- Carr Gilmore, Midway Fire Rescue - Pawley's Island, SC
Despite six to eight-foot waves, he grabbed life jacket, swam 300-400 feet and pulled first victim to shore. He then resumed command despite exhaustion.
- Forest Goings, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
He found an intoxicated person dangling by a wire off a roof. He went out narrow window onto a wet, steep-angled roof to rescue the victim.
- John Gonzales, Denver, CO, FD
In heavy smoke and high heat conditions, a firefighter's SCBA malfunctioned. When victim collapsed, connected buddy breather hose and assisted him to safety.
- Christine Haber, Prince George's County, MD, FD
Traveling home after shift, she came upon a crash in which the vehicle's engine was on fire. Using extinguishers from other motorists, she quelled the flames and assisted with the patient.
- Dave Haley, Los Angeles County, CA, FD
He held fire in check while a search was initiated for victims.
- Ronald Halley, Baltimore County, MD, FD
He knocked down fire, took over search and rescue, located and removed child victim.
- Timothy Hannen, Baltimore County, MD, FD
He stretched line to second floor, and started search operations. He switched positions with other firefighter to execute effective search and rescue.
- William Hawkins, Prince George's County, MD, FD
Responded on air unit to two unconscious workers in a 15- to 20-foot sewer shaft. He used a high-pressure breathing air supply line into sewer. He helped hoist the victims out.
- Robert Holland, Florence, SC, FD
Facing heavy smoke, he used a thermal imaging camera to locate a female victim. He later found male victim, assisted in carrying him out and performed CPR.
- Kyle Howell, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
Without the protection of a hoseline, he removed structural debris and rescued woman from burning vehicle that hit a structure.
- Joe Ingram, Los Angeles County, CA, FD
He performed search in heavy fire conditions, located and removed victim using classic fireman's carry for 150 feet.
- Carl Jones, Fairfax County, VA
Witnessing a crash while working at part-time job, he rushed to burning vehicle without PPE or hoseline protection and pulled the unconscious driver to safety. Vehicle then became engulfed in flames.
- Derrick Keubeck, College Park, MD, VFD
He went ahead of hoseline in low visibility and high heat conditions, and assisted in removing the victim from small, cluttered basement apartment.
- Richard Lawhon, Florence, SC, FD
Facing heavy smoke, used thermal imaging camera to locate female victim. After getting her out of the house, he returned and found another victim.
- Martin Lieb, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
Holding his breath after SCBA failed and without the protection of a hoseline, he removed woman from burning vehicle that hit a structure.
- Joshua Liebross, College Park, MD, VFD
Located and assisted in removal of unconscious victim in limited visibility and high heat conditions.
- Jay Love, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
Assisted in securing victim dangling from a wire off a roof.
- Brian Martin, Los Angeles County, CA, FD
Advised that screaming was heard, he initiated search and discovered victim in exposed upstairs unit.
- Albert Moir, Vineland, NJ
Without PPE or SCBA, he came upon a fire at a tank trailer. He located victim, and led him to safety.
- Michael Nasti, Huntingtown, MD, VFD
Directed crew to begin attack while he began primary search. He continued search when hoseline was compromised, found and removed victim, returned for second victim.
- Robert Pickel, Bladensburg, MD, VFD
He found and dug victim out of pile of newspapers. He suffered burns in the incident.
- Trish Reddin, Denver, CO, FD
Under heavy smoke and high heat conditions, he assisted fellow firefighter whose SCBA malfunctioned during basement fire. After victim collapsed, he helped him to safety.
- Dana Rickman, Los Angeles County, CA, FD
After knocking down fire, climbed spiral stairs to loft, located and removed two children. Later, he performed CPR and returned to command fire.
- Jeremy Rodgers Jr., Charlotte, NC, FD
Faced heavy fire and smoke upon arrival, he located and removed unconscious victim.
- Omar Shareef, Baltimore City, MD, FD
He crawled through dense smoke and heat to assist in finding and removing child while PPE was burning.
- Richard Slepetz, Fairfax County, VA, Fire & Rescue
Using a thermal imaging camera, he located two victims in heavy fire and smoke conditions. He entered initially without hoseline.
- Greg Stienstra, Phoenix, AZ, FD
He rescued woman from heavy fire that was so intense, his PPE was destroyed and his facepiece crystallized.
- Brian Thrasher, Huntingtown, MD, VFD
He assisted in removing victim, and initiating CPR. He re-entered the structure to search for and remove second victim.
- Calvin Thomas, Houston, TX, FD
He used saw to force barred window, searched apartment with thermal imaging camera, located and removed three children.
- David Thomas, Charlotte, NC, FD
While suspended 180 feet under aircraft, he rigged a harness to hoist a patient out of a ravine.
- Breck Timbs, Gregg Township, IN, FD
With heavy smoke venting and without a hoseline, he searched for and located trapped wheelchair-bound victim, who did not survive. He re-entered the trailer with charged line.
- Ryan Trapp, Milwaukee, WI, FD
Without the benefit of a hoseline, he found stairway in zero visibility. He located and removed an unconscious victim.
- Jeff Voncannon, Department
He coordinated placement of aircraft and rope harness during hoist of climber who fell into a ravine.
- Philip Amenkowicz, Cambridge, MA, FD
- Russell Barton, Columbus, OH
- Alan Corn, Kileen, TX, FD
- Michael Cook, FDNY
- James Cox, Florence, SC
- Mike Daughtry, Tuscaloosa, AL, Fire Rescue
- Joe Esswein, St. Louis, MO, FD
- Jack Freeman, Tuscaloosa, AL, Fire Rescue
- Dan Grischow, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Rodney Heard, St. Louis, MO, FD
- Anthony King, Florence, AL, FD
- Bob Kohley, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Matt Leuck, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Mike Lucas, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Dustin Merryman, Prince Geoerge's County, MD, FD
- Bart Molli, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
- Bobby Morgan, Chattanooga, TN, FD
- Brian O'Regan, Cambridge, MA, FD
- Robert Olszewski, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Steve Pierson, St. Louis, MO, FD
- Hiedi Resek, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Derrick Riddle, Tuscaloosa, AL, Fire Rescue
- Barton Russell, Columbus, OH, FD
- John Snider, Tuscaloosa, AL, Fire Rescue
- Joyce Stevenson, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Jim Susteck, St. Louis, MO, FD
- David Thompson, Chattanooga, TN, FD
- Matt Thuma, Crystal Lake, IL, FD
- Paul Urbano, Anchorage, AK, FD
- David Vigilante, Cmabridge, MA, FD
- Donald Wagner, Columbus, OH, Div. of Fire
- Mike Ward, Florence, SC, FD
- Brad Wilson, Kileen, TX, FD
- Chris Wirth, Kileen, TX, FD
- Eric Smith, Midland, TX, FD/ARFF Station
Responding to a medical call for a hysterical man, he found a U.S. Marine sergeant who had just learned his family had been involved in a crash. His one-year-old daughter was killed, while his wife and six-yearold daughter were in a hospital. Smith chartered a plane with his own money to take the sergeant to his family. He then started a trust fund at a local bank and solicited donations from Midland area citizens to support the couple, whose daughter succombed to her injuries.
- Leslie Grundler, Contra Costa County, CA, Fire Protection District
In addition to being the coordinator of charity events at her previous fire department, she runs the Bikes for Tykes program, donating to more than 25 organizations. In 2006, the program gave a record 370 new bicycles and tricycles to needy children. She also works as a driver for patients with the cancer foundation, and assists low-income families with the Giving Tree organization.
- Dennis Wood, Prince George's County, MD, Fire/EMS
He developed and organized the PRIDE (Proactive Residential Information Distribution Effort) program to give out free smoke alarms and fire safety information as well as fresh batteries. Since the program's inception, fire fatalities have dropped by 70%. The goal is to visit all 850,000 residences during the four year effort.
- Clinton Powell, Anchorage, AK, FD
He coordinates the car seat inspection program, checking approximately 30 child/ infant seats each month for safe and proper installation. More than 100 car seats have been given out to needy families. He also has replaced seats at no cost to the department. He also works with Providence Safe Kids to provide bike helmets.
- Donnie Hardee, Greenville, NC, Fire/Rescue
He turned to laughter to get kids to listen to important fire and life safety messages. He organized the "Clown Brigade." Characters include "Bunkerz," "Squirt" and "Safe- T." He attended clown training, and dedicated countless off -duty hours coming up with entertaining skits, props and costumes.
- Ramp Gang (lead by Phillip Sullivan & Robert LaRose), Worcester, MA, FD
The crew builds ramps for elderly, handicapped and housebound individuals who are oft en without financial means to pay for them. In 2006, the gang built ramps totaling several hundred feet. There are over 50 participating members.
- Gerald T. Cabaday, Erie, PA, FD
- Ronald Wilkinson, Brandywine, MD, FD
- Cobb, GA, Fire & Emergency Serv.: Ronald G. Fagan, Trevor A. Levy, Stephen C. Bennet, & Kerry Lambert
Searching the floor above the fire in a seven-story hotel without a hoseline, the crew faced zero visibility and crawled to find one victim. The fire flashed over before they could reach the second. A third victim was rescued in a stairwell.
- Fairfax County, VA, Fire Rescue: R419
Providing mutual aid to Prince William County, the crew responded to a tractor-trailer crash 150 yards off the road. They set up a rope system, carried down tools and assisted in extrication of victim for aerial evacuation.
- Manassas, VA, VFC: Michael Lesnick, Jeff Lenard, James McCormack, James Rose
Responding to a house fire with people trapped, they prepared to enter the basement. An explosion blew the crew out of the house, and knocked one unconscious. With worsening conditions, they directed the hoseline.
- Tuscaloosa, AL, Fire Rescue: Derrick Riddle, John Snider, Mike Daugherty & Jack Freeman
Facing a house heavily involved with fire and smoke so thick that the thermal imaging camera was difficult to read, the crew performed a search. They found the victim, lifted him out a window and performed BLS until equipment arrived.
- Brockton, MA, FD: Tower 2
Four people were rescued under heavy smoke and fire conditions without the protection of a hoseline. Members accessed the home through ground ladders via a third floor window. They found two unconscious adults, dragged them to the window, and performed life-saving measures.
- Fairfax County
When a storm dropped more than 13 inches of rain in some areas, multiple emergency situations arose, including the flooding of up to 100 homes. Water rose over cars and into house. Major roads were closed. Approximately 80 people were rescued. One business and and 245 homes were damaged, causing about $11 million.
This year's Firehouse Heroism Award recipients were awarded prizes with support from E-One, V.H. Blackinton & Co., Inc. and The Charles Evans Foundation. If you would like to nominate someone from your department for next years awards, please click here.