Lt. Greg Pickard (left to right) and firefighters Rickey Mantey and Mitch Moran.
Editor's note: Firefighters Ricky Mantey and Mitch Moran will be receiving their Firehouse Heroism Awards during the opening ceremonies at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore. Chief Randy McGregor will accept the top honor on behalf of Lt. Greg Pickard's wife, Susie. Find out more about the Firehouse Heroism Awards here, including in-depth profiles on some winners.
Feb. 15, 2013 is forever etched in the history of the Bryan, Texas, Fire Department.
For that’s the day two lieutenants – Eric Wallace and Greg Pickard -- responded to their final alarm.
And, two firefighters – Mitch Moran and Ricky Mantey – were left with scars from severe burns.
Wallace and another firefighter were in the Knights of Columbus hall battling a blaze when they radioed they were low on air.
The RIT crew -- Pickard, Moran and Mantey – were standing by and were sent in to assist.
“Conditions were not good,” Moran said. “But, we went in to get him. We remained focused…”
“We were on our way out with him when a flashover caught us.”
They were engulfed in flames.
“I remember being sprayed with water. I put my hand down and touched water. It felt hot. But, when I put my other hand down, I had no feeling at all. I remember people yanking to get my gear off.”
His hands, neck, ears and back were burned. While undergoing surgeries and treatments, he had one goal in mind – get back to work.
And, he did that exactly one year to the day he was injured.
There was no hesitation on his part when he entered the building as the RIT. “The training we have prepared us. If we hadn’t practiced, we wouldn’t have been able to perform like we did. You can never have too much training.”
Moran said he appreciates the kindness he and his family received following the incident. It’s that continued support that has help sustain him as he is now in paramedic class.
Meanwhile, Mantey still has surgeries ahead of him.
His memory of the incident also is piecemeal.
“It just happened. We were coming out when it flashed. The fire was way hotter than what our gear is rated for."
He’s had at least a dozen surgeries, and more ahead of him.
“I’d love to go back if I can…”
Both firefighters said they were confident in their training, each other and their lieutenant when they responded to the Mayday.
The events of that call also will never leave the memory of Chief Randy McGregor.
“Greg was really badly burned and was being treated on the stretcher, and he was still concerned about Eric. He was telling the medics where they could find him. He was describing his last location. He was more concerned about his fellow firefighter than he was about himself.”
There are no classes, books or lectures that can prepare a chief for such a horrific event.
“Firefighter Moran looked at me and said: ‘I love you, chief.’”
He echoed his firefighters’ comments about training. “We take our RIT and other drills very seriously. We want to make sure everyone is prepared.”
He added that when Wallace called for help, he remained calm. The RIT team found him and were dragging him out.
They weren’t far from a successful rescue when things went horribly wrong, and everyone didn't go home that night.