Firehouse Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards

March 30, 2011

We are pleased to announce the newest honorees in our Firehouse® Magazine Heroism & Community Service Awards program and take pride in highlighting the bravery of these outstanding individuals. We recognize the judges: Chief Mark McLees of the Syracuse, NY, Fire Department; Chief Edward "Loy" Senter Jr. of Chesterfield County, VA, Fire and Emergency Medical Services; and Chief (ret.) Bruce Varner of the Santa Rosa, CA, Fire Department. We also thank retired FDNY Rescue 1 Firefighter Paul Hashagen, who administers the program.

Grand Prize Recipient


Firefighter/Paramedic Jeffrey Michael Novack Baltimore City, MD, Fire Department Truck Company 12

Just after 9 P.M. on April 7, 2010, a civilian ran into Truck Company 12 advising that his apartment was on fire next door. A box alarm was alerted for 3910 Liberty Heights Ave. The closest three engines were unavailable to respond. Truck 12 arrived within seconds, commanded by Acting Lieutenant Novack. He reported a three-story apartment building with fire showing from the second floor. Novack went to the front of the building, where he was met by a large group of civilians who told him there were still people inside the building on the third floor. The fire had already begun to extend into the hallway of the second floor as Novack made his way to the third floor. He located a semi-conscious, elderly female. He began to take her down the steps, shielding her body with his own, as they passed the fire on the second floor. He exited the building and turned her over to waiting paramedics.

Recognizing there were still people inside, Novack dashed back into the building. He went back to the third floor, past the now even larger fire on the second floor. Another firefighter followed him up to assist with the search. While searching the third floor, they found another civilian in a rear apartment. They assisted him to a window. The civilian began to panic and ran down the hall away from Novack and the other firefighter. The third floor was now well involved and the fire had extended into the apartment. Novack was trapped and surrounded by fire. He transmitted a Mayday on his radio. He began to search for a window, but now he was on fire, as was the entire room. He located a window and used his hook to knock it out. He then leaped out, head first, grasping onto the exterior sill with his hands. Units in the rear were deploying a ground ladder. Novack was clinging onto the sill with every last inch of energy he had left, but the fire was too hot and he could not hang on any longer.

Novack dropped three stories to a concrete well in the rear of the building. Members immediately tended to him and signaled for paramedics. He was admitted for more than two weeks with a broken hip, a broken elbow, and severe second-degree burns to his arms, wrists and fingers. The civilian made it to a side window, where a ground ladder was placed and he exited the building without injury. The civilian Novack first pulled out of the building was unconscious and transported to the burn center. She made a full recovery and was released shortly thereafter.

Acting Lieutenant Jeffrey Novack put the life of others in front of his own. Due to his actions, two civilians are alive today.


Firefighter Peter Demontreux FDNY Ladder Company 132

On Aug. 30, 2010, Ladder 132 responded first-due to an early-morning phone alarm reporting a structural fire. While enroute, dispatchers reported receiving reports of multiple trapped persons throughout the building. There was heavy fire at the front door, in the hallway and up the stairway up to the third floor preventing entry until a hoseline was in place. Firefighter Salzano, the Ladder 132 chauffeur, was setting up the aerial for a rescue of a man who was at the front window on the third floor with heavy smoke pushing all around him. Firefighter Demontreux, the outside vent man, climbed the aerial and pulled the man from the window. The man told him his friend was still inside the burning apartment. Demontreux searched the front room, but was forced back to the window because of the high heat and zero visibility. Firefighter Myers of Rescue 2 vented the front windows.

Demontreux continued his search to the rear of the apartment. He discovered a man hanging out a rear window to escape the heat. Since there were no fire escapes or portable ladders, the only way out was the window he came in. Through high heat and zero visibility, he led the man back through the apartment. Halfway through, the apartment exploded into flames, engulfing both men and setting them ablaze. Demontreux, now on fire, made the decision that he would not leave the man behind. Through the fully involved room, he stayed with the man and continued to assist him to the window. Demontreux pushed the man out the window onto the aerial ladder before diving onto the ladder. Engine 219 in the street opened their line on the two men to extinguish the flames. The man received burns to more than 50% of his body. Demontreux suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face and neck. All of his personal protective equipment (PPE) was condemned. (See Close Calls, January and February 2011.)


Captain Matthew Davidson Athens Borough Fire Department Bradford County, PA Company 6

At 11:17 P.M. on Dec. 17, 2010, Bradford County 911 received several calls for a working fire. Fire was reported showing from the second floor with people possibly inside. Captain Davidson was the first to arrive on the scene. He confirmed the working fire and entrapment. A passerby and the landlord raised a ladder to the porch roof. Black smoke and flames were pushing from a window onto the porch roof. Davidson entered another window after he and a police officer broke out another window. Davidson entered the room and found a 2-year-old boy and handed him out to others on the roof. He went back in and found a 6-year-old girl and handed her out to others on the roof. 12 Truck 1 arrived and a handline was handed to Captain Davidson. He then knocked down the flames. Further searches were conducted for an adult female believed to still be in the apartment. After several searches, it was determined the woman was not home. The children were admitted for smoke inhalation and released the next day.


Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Durbin Chicago, IL, Fire Department Truck 2

On Sunday, Dec. 13, 2010, Firefighter/Paramedic Durbin was off duty working for a private ambulance company. While driving, he saw smoke coming from the upper floors of a high-rise building. Upon his arrival, fire was blowing out of the top floors of a 29-story residential building. He asked his partner to call 911 and he left instructions in the lobby that no elevators were to be used. He ran upstairs and on the 18th floor he encountered a man and his son who said the fire was in their apartment on the 28th floor and someone was trapped inside. He felt the door to the hallway on the fire floor. Visibility was close to zero. Thick, black smoke was two feet from the floor. He took a breath and made a dash to the fire apartment. Part way down the hallway, he tripped over what only could have been a body. He took hold and reversed direction. In the stairway, he found a woman barely conscious and with labored breathing. He picked up the woman and carried her down to the street. He met firefighters on the stairs making their way upstairs. He gave them a quick layout and described the conditions.


Firefighter/EMT Salvatore Mastrodomenico Chicago, IL, Fire Department Engine 126

On July 24, 2010 at 7:30 A.M., units responded to a residential fire. Reports of civilians trapped brought additional apparatus. The first engine stretched lines to the basement and a primary search of the basement was started. The fire was free burning near the exit and giving off heavy, black smoke. Heat was building due to a lack of ventilation. Because of recent heavy rains, there was six inches of water in the basement as well as floor-to-ceiling clutter. Lieutenant Munoz and Mastrodomenico made the decision to crawl past the fire and start the search. He soon located an elderly man in the front bedroom. Due to the rising temperatures and acrid smoke, the elderly man was unconscious and in critical condition lying in the water. The two firefighters teamed up and carried the victim from the basement to a waiting EMS crew.


Lieutenant Edward J. Gonzalez FDNY Ladder Company 161

On Aug. 27, 2010 at 2:38 A.M., Ladder 161 responded to a report of a structural fire. On arrival, heavy fire was visible in a top-floor window in a six-story, non-fireproof multiple dwelling. On the fifth floor, the smoke began to bank down. A quick look up to the sixth floor revealed a dense smoke condition. The forcible entry team reached and gained control of the apartment door. The members knew the hose stretch of 13 lengths was going to be delayed. With zero visibility and high heat, the team split up and began their search. Firefighter Shelse found a victim. Lieutenant Gonzalez and Firefighter Norris worked their way back to the victim, who reported two more victims. Norris was directed to hold back the expanding fire with the extinguisher. Gonzalez pressed deeper into the apartment. He crawled past the body of fire into the rear bedroom. Knowing his primary means of egress may be cut off, his determination paid off as he located the second victim, age 80, on the floor. He began dragging the victim assisted by Firefighter Shelse, who came to his aid bringing the victim into the hallway.


District Chief Michael T. Chura Syracuse, NY, Fire Department District Chief Car 4A

On Aug. 11, 2010, at 5:35 P.M., District Chief Chura was off duty heading to a vacation at the New Jersey shore when he came upon a one-car motor vehicle accident. He saw an overturned vehicle about 40 feet off the road. The vehicle was on fire and he could see a person was still trapped upside down. With no tools or protective equipment, he entered the passenger compartment through the broken rear driver's-side window. He found a 61-year-old female trapped upside down by her seatbelt. Fire had breached the firewall and was rapidly spreading into the area near the driver. After eight tries, Chura released the seatbelt and placed the driver on the ceiling. At this time, Chura and two others who had arrived pulled the driver about four feet from the vehicle. The fire and smoke intensified so the patient had to be moved away several more times.

$250 each

Firefighter Chris Reischl Firefighter Robert Mansfield Chicago, IL, Fire Department Squad 2

On Jan. 1, 2010 at 1:30 A.M., Squad 2 responded to a building fire. The fire was in a two-story frame with fire blowing out the front and rear windows. Firefighters Reischl and Mansfield went to the rear, where a bystander said a man was trapped. They crawled through the dense smoke and met extreme heat and zero visibility. They forced open the door, but there was an obstruction. It was the body of an unconscious adult male. They had to remove the door and were met with flashover conditions, but continued without hesitation. They were able to spin the body in the tight stairway with fire raging over their heads and carry the victim to ground level.


Firefighter Charles J. Dodenhoff FDNY Rescue Company 2

Rescue 2 responded to a fire at 175 Putnam Ave. on Aug. 30, 2010, at 4:28 A.M. Fire had complete possession of the stairway in the four-story building. There was no water in the first line. Firefighter Dodenhoff reported to the roof with the Life Saving Rope. He saw a male in a top-floor window with heavy smoke pushing behind him. Conditions caused the victim to lean farther out the window. He said he couldn't hold his position any longer and there was an unconscious woman behind him. Dodenhoff was lowered to the victim's position. The victim fell back into the apartment and Dodenhoff had to disengage from the rope and attempt to locate the victim. While Dodenhoff was bringing him to the window, the man became very agitated and attempted to climb out the window and onto the rope. Dodenhoff was able to gain control and secure him into the rope, which allowed him to be lowered to the ground. He then assisted other members of Rescue 2 in locating and removing the unconscious woman to the street.


Firefighter Robert Diaz FDNY Ladder Company 166

On Feb. 16, 2010, at 12:15 P.M., Ladder 166 responded to a fire on the 15th floor of a 17-story high-rise fireproof multiple dwelling. Firefighter Diaz forced entry into the apartment and despite high heat and zero visibility he crawled into the apartment with the protection of a hoseline and began a search. Diaz moved under the flames and heat into a bedroom. He felt a medical oxygen line to a closet, where he found a pile of clothing and pillows. Furiously digging to the bottom of the pile, he felt an arm. With the fire blocking his only means of egress, he shielded the victim with his body as he dragged the victim under the flames that were rolling overhead. He became entangled in telephone and TV cables. He quickly untangled himself and continued to drag the victim out of the apartment to the floor below.

$250 each

Firefighter Andy Peralta Ex-Captain William Walsh Freeport, NY, Fire Department Truck Company 1

On Feb. 14, 2010, at 3:01 P.M., the Freeport Fire Department responded to a house fire with a report of an elderly woman trapped. Heavy fire was venting from windows on the first floor and auto-exposing the second floor. Interior crews reported it was impossible to use the interior stairs to search without a handline. Walsh lowered the aerial into position at a second-floor window believed to be the room of the trapped woman. Ex-Captain Walsh and Firefighter Peralta climbed the ladder. They entered the heavily charged room. Both were forced to their hands and knees by high heat and began their search in zero visibility. The woman was located on top of the bed. They pulled the woman from the bed and dragged her back to the window. With the help of other members, they lifted her outside. Once she was clear, they resumed their search and checked for extension.


Firefighter Justin Eric Davidson Prince George's County Fire Department College Park Volunteer Fire Department Company 12

On April 13, 2010, Firefighter Davidson was off duty from his firefighter job with Truck 33 of the Anne Arundel, MD, County Fire Department. At 3:35 P.M., Davidson was taking a nap in his parents' home when his mother came into the bedroom, screaming the house was on fire. Fire and heavy smoke were pushing from the attic eaves and had begun to take over the living room. He got his mother and two dogs out of the house and instructed his mother to call 911. He re-entered to get his father. Davidson grabbed a four-foot shovel and an extinguisher to keep the fire in check. Davidson met his father in the hallway and he was being overcome by smoke. The father is disabled and suffers from severe emphysema. Davidson positioned himself between the fire and his father. He removed his father from the house and re-entered to keep the fire from spreading.


Firefighter Phillip J. Cetrino Boston, MA, Fire Department Rescue Company 1

On Aug. 30, 2010, Rescue Company 1 responded to a report of a jumper. There was a highly distraught and agitated woman standing on a sixth-floor window ledge. Firefighter Cetrino prepared for a high-angle rescue. With a safety harness and ropes, he placed himself as close as possible to the edge of the roof. Police negotiators planned to get the woman from the ledge into the room. They were able to talk her inside when Cetrino was told to rappel into the window, knocking the woman down. She was armed with a scalpel and a struggle ensued. He prevented the woman from harming herself and him. Police rapidly entered the room and subdued the screaming woman.


Captain Michael Ascone Anchorage, AK, Fire Department Engine 7

On July 21, 2010, Fire Station 7 received a dispatch to Jewel Lake for an inland water rescue. A 911 caller reported hearing someone calling for help, then witnessed a victim 100 yards from the lake shore. Upon arrival, witnesses stated the victim had submerged moments before firefighters arrived. Captain Ascone commandeered a private boat and sent Firefighter Nielson to mark the location. A second boat was commandeered and was rowed to the location. Both Ascone and Nielson dove in the murky water with zero visibility. Ascone reached the victim in the first dive in 12 to 15 feet of water. After coming up for air, he and Neilson swam the victim to the surface. The victim was brought into the boat and was in cardiac arrest. CPR was started and the craft rowed to shore to a waiting medic.

2010 Winners' Ring

View all the award recipients and exclusive stories of acts of heroism online at

Join us on Thursday, July 21 at Firehouse Expo for the Opening Ceremony and presentation of the Firehouse Heroism & Community Service Awards.

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San Francisco, CA, FD Rescue Squad 1

Lieutenant Richard W. Gering Firefighter Derek B. O'Leary Firefighter John G. Shanley Firefighter Michael Orlando

Responded to a call for the trench rescue of a worker who had fallen in a hole. Victim was neck deep in sand and concrete with concrete debris. Rescue Squad 1 began the shoring, stabilization and extrication process. Members began removing soil from around the victim using hand shovels. Once his upper body was exposed, an IV was administered. Squad members continued to dig without reprieve until a mechanical advantage system was set up and the victim was removed. The process took four hours. The victim suffered only a minor injury and was released from the hospital later that day.

Fairfax County, VA, Fire and Rescue Engine 408

Captain 1 Larry E. Jenkins (retired) Technician Davin E. Bridges Firefighter Heather J. Lefever

Truck 422

Master Technician John L. Capps Firefighter Mark E. Huehn

While on scene at a house fire, a floor collapse trapped three members of Engine 422 in the basement. Members of Engine 408 and Truck 422 immediately went to work. Engine 408's crew operated a hoseline in two windows and through small openings within the rear door to cool the basement and help control the ever increasing fire. Engine 422's crew used chainsaws to cut their way into the structure, providing access to and egress for the trapped members. All three members escaped the collapse.

Cambridge, MA, FD Engine 1 Group 1

Fire Lieutenant David House Firefighter Vinroy Paul Firefighter Joseph Hallissey Firefighter Gary Plunkett

Came upon a male EDP of very large build attempting to wrestle the holstered gun away from a uniformed transit police officer. The members acted immediately by tackling the man. A struggle ensued until they were finally able to subdue him. They maintained control over him until other police officers arrived.

Fairfax County, VA, Fire and Rescue Rescue 421, A-Shift

Lieutenant Jeffrey L. Mongold Technician Thomas E. Biller Technician Chris M. Matos Technician Michael T. King

Responding to a house fire, Rescue 421 encountered a home with a basement fire in which the floor inside the front door had been burned through. With an occupant trapped inside, the decision was made to perform a vent-enter-search through a bedroom window, which was five feet off the ground. Using a step ladder, members broke through the window and entered the dwelling. The home was a hoarding situation, providing many obstacles. An unconscious male weighing about 250 pounds was located on the floor. The victim was placed on a bed and lifted up over the headboard and through the five-foot high window, where exterior crews were waiting with a stokes basket for patient removal.

Fairfax County, VA, Fire and Rescue

Lieutenant Marc S. Davidson Technician Richard N. Mitchell Firefighter B. Wayne Talbert Technician G. Brian Mayhugh Firefighter Keith Baughan Technician Ryan S. Fletcher

Responded to a call of three people in the water following a canoe capsizing in a bay. The bay was past high tide and the water was rapidly receding out toward the Potomac River. The water temperature was 56 degrees and the area was dark due to limited ambient light. The crew donned their cold water suits, powered up their night vision equipment and boarded Fire Boat 420. Fairfax One arrived over the scene and located the victims. Firefighter Baughan entered the water and rescued the first victim, then re-entered and grabbed the second victim. The third person swam to shore on his own. It took 19 minutes from the time of dispatch to recovery.

Clark County, NV, FD Engine 12

Captain Paul Youdelis Engineer Gary Atkinson Firefighter Cory Ash Firefighter/Paramedic Hyrum Barlow

Engine 15

Captain Steven Broadwell Engineer Joseph Lord Firefighter Robert Grana Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan Orton

With a victim on the phone with dispatch, Engine 12 raced to a fire at a two-story office structure across the street from the station. Arriving in less than a minute, crews encountered heavy smoke conditions. The victim told dispatch she was in a room with no windows and was having difficulty breathing. Engine 15 was assigned to the fire attack as crews went into "Rescue Mode." Engine 15 located the heavy fire in the hallway and began to attack the fire. Under extreme smoke conditions and with zero visibility, Engine 12 made entry into the building and located the victim. Once conditions were safe, they removed her to safety.

Shreveport, LA, FD Dive Team

Tim Thames Robert Thomas Chase Bynog Chad Alexander Chad Burden James Lockey

The Shreveport Fire Department responded to a call of possible drowning in the Red River. After more than 30 minutes of searching in murky water in near-zero visibility, Chief Brian A. Crawford and the SFD Dive Team decided that efforts should be redirected from rescue to recovery mode. It was confirmed by family members that six teenagers were missing. At 7:38 P.M., the divers entered the water. At 7:51 P.M., the first victim was discovered and removed from a depth of 29 feet. Four minutes later, two more bodies were found and recovered at 30 feet. All divers were topside by 8:05 P.M. for personnel accountability and to monitor the level of air in their SCUBA. At 8:13 P.M., a fourth victim was recovered. Mutual aid from Bossier City divers recovered the fifth body at 9:40 P.M. SFD divers recovered the final victim from the river's bottom at 10 P.M. Divers determined that all six children were found within a 20-foot circumference.

Wichita, KS, FD Squad 2

Firefighter Darren K. Matthews Acting Lieutenant Larry P. Cook

Truck 2

Firefighter Matthew Q. Barthelme Firefighter Lyndell L. Lara Captain Tyler L. Nolan

Engine 12

Captain Jim D. Martin Firefighter Dan R. Dawson Firefighter Timothy D. Goscha Firefighter Byron M. Jabara

Engine 22

Captain Boyd A. Lauber Firefighter Jeremy S. Menges Firefighter James D. Heitman Firefighter Evan T. Snyder

Mobile Air One

Firefighter James L. Christy III Battalion Chief Robert L. Wolfe

Squad 2 was the first on scene at a house fire and reported smoke pouring out of the residence. Engine 22 arrived and was assigned to the fire attack. They immediately pulled a hoseline and initiated an aggressive interior attack. The search and fire attack teams were forced to the floor due to near zero visibility and high temperatures. Firefighters located a badly burned female victim and carried her outside. Their initial triage of serious condition was upgraded to critical when they noticed the victim had second and third degree burns to 63% of her body. She had also stopped breathing and her airway had been compromised. A CPR rotation was begun and AED were applied. A combitube was inserted and bilateral breathing sounds were detected. The victim was taken away by ambulance. She succumbed 72 hours later.

Prince George's County, MD Fire/EMS Training Academy

Major Leroy Smith Captain Grady Valencis

Croom Station 845

Battalion Chief Howard R. "Butch" Leonard Jr. Fire Technician Darryl Bullock

Upon arrival to a call of a 12-year-old male motionless in a pool, Leonard observed two victims in the deep end of the eight-foot-deep pool and radioed for assistance. Valencis, Leonard and Bullock entered the water, while Smith coordinated rescue efforts on the pool deck. Both males were lifted to the surface and handed to awaiting personnel. Paramedics rapidly assessed the victims and determined both to be unconscious, not breathing, and without a pulse. They were transported to a local hospital, where they both died. It is believed that the second victim, the uncle of the 12-year-old boy, saw his nephew at the bottom of the pool and attempted to save him.

Prince George's County, MD, Fire/EMS Kentland VFD

Chief Anthony P. Kelleher Deputy Chief Patrick J. Mann Captain Joseph Brown

Engine Company 33

Lieutenant Peter Johnson Sergeant Timothy J. Moore Jr. First Acting Man Timothy McCloskey

Tower Ladder 33

Captain Walter J. Brown

Rescue Squad 33

Lieutenant Curtis Patterson

While battling heavy fire in a two-story wood-frame home, Walter Brown heard the sound of an activated PASS alarm. As Brown made his way through the heavily involved kitchen, McCloskey found an unmanned handline and repositioned it to protect for the search for the PASS. Brown located the downed firefighter, who was unconscious and without a facepiece, and determined that he had burn injuries to his airway. Brown realized that Patterson had placed a ladder at a nearby window and had been clearing glass. Patterson sounded the Mayday, alerting Mann, Moore and Joseph Brown, who immediately began performing a Denver-style removal out of the window. Patterson and Johnson, enduring heavy smoke conditions and without SCBA, pulled the firefighter onto the ladder and down to ground level.

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