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 overthe 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.
MEBANE, N.C.-- First responders are not only trained to be prepared for any situation, but also to follow safety guidelines to protect themselves.
On Oct. 22, 2006, Mebane, N.C. Assistant Chief Tim Bradley went against a lot of what he's helped teach for close to three decades, but in the end has no regrets.
"You always evaluate the potential for gain against the potential for risk," he said. "You never put yourself in a situation were you will become a causality."
On that Monday night at approximately 9:42 p.m., Bradley rescued a five-year-old boy from a burning house, without the use of an SCBA. As the commanding officer, Bradley arrived in his personal vehicle, donning turnout gear, but made it to the scene more than two minutes before the first arriving engine.
"I never was concerned about not getting out," he said, noting that he believed the child didn't have much time.
"I came up in the fire service in the early 70s and we didn't use (SCBAs) anyway. I had fought a lot of structure fires without air packs," he said. "It's just something we don't teach people to do."
Assessing the Situation
Bradley said that when the call first came in, it was for a family of four trapped in a house fire. He left his home -- which is closer to the area than the station -- and headed for the scene.
When he arrived, he saw the smoke and heard the mother screaming. He was notified by a neighbor that the boy was still stuck in the house, which was confirmed by a highway patrol officer who was at the scene.
That is when Bradley decided to go into the structure, knowing that the first engine was far behind. "The window was puffing, but there weren't any visible flames," he said.
Entering first through the rear door, he was forced back by the now visible flames. Bradley then moved to a window where the officer gave him a boost. Once inside he said it was difficult to see, but soon found the young boy near a doorway, behind a dresser.
The boy was burned and unconscious on the floor of the room Bradley was in as he lifted his body and handed him to the officer through the window. By that time the rest of the department had made it to the house.
"I got him back to the patrol officer who brought him to the ambulance," he said. "I think they had to pull me out of the window. I don't remember much after that."
Bradley was only held overnight at a hospital for observation after suffering from smoke inhalation, but said it was a long, tough road for the little boy.
He received two skin graphs and was in the burn center for close to two months. During that time, Bradley spent time with the boy, meeting him for the first time since the incident three weeks later.
Today, the boy is back in school, Bradley said, and has even taught his classmates about the dangers of fire and what to do in the case of one.
Since the incident occurred, Bradley was awarded with his department's valor award, and was nominated for the Mine Safety Appliance's (MSA) Fireslayer Award, something that surprised him since the company specializes in breathing devices.
No matter what other awards he receives, he said the rescue was ultimately the work of the entire group.
"You have to give a lot of credit to the EMS workers, the trooper and the engine crew," he said. "As with any situation like that; it's always a team effort."
Bradley, who at the age of 52 has been a volunteer firefighter for 34 years and has worked for North Carolina's fire marshal's office for 21 years, said rescuing the boy was one of the high points of his career.