Meet the 2017 Courage and Valor Award Nominees

Courage and Valor Award

Following are the nominees for the 2017 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award, excluding the winner Firefighter James Lee Jr, Fire Department of New York.

Firefighter Jamie Brock, Townville Volunteer Fire Department, Seneca, South Carolina

At 1345 hours on September 28, 2016, law enforcement, fire, and EMS units from Townville and surrounding Anderson and Oconee County agencies were dispatched to a reported active shooter at the Townville Elementary School.

The shooter was reported to be at the rear of the building; children were shot near the playground. Within minutes, multiple teachers called Fire Chief William McAdams and EMS Chief Mark Bryant’s cell phones directly to ensure response and to give additional imperative information.

Brock and Chief McAdams immediately responded to the school from the chief’s farm. Other personnel were responding in fire and EMS apparatus.

When McAdams and Brock drove into the rear parking lot, approximately three to four minutes after the start of the incident, they immediately noticed a pick-up that had crashed into the playground fence. Teachers were yelling for help from an open classroom door.

Brock and McAdams split up to cover inside and outside of the school. After quickly checking the wrecked truck for occupants or a gunman, McAdams entered the school to assist the school staff with treatment of the injured.

Brock proceeded along the sidewalk to search for the gunman. As he made his way to the rear corner of the building, he observed the shooter a short distance away in the grass next to another set of doors. Feeling that it was imperative for the safety of the students, teachers, and responders inside, Brock immediately confronted and subdued the shooter. He kept the shooter on the ground until law enforcement arrived and took him into custody.

Over the next hour, the school staff, the Townville Volunteer Fire Department, Fork EMS, AnMedLifeflight, and numerous Anderson and Oconee County fire and EMS mutual-aid agencies worked seamlessly to treat and transport the injured. On-scene responders also helped to ensure the safety and security of those remaining in the school and assisted them in moving all students involved to a predetermined reunification point to be released to their families.

According to media reports, the shooter was a teenage boy. He injured two male students and a female teacher. He was suspected of killing his father.

Brock was presented with the first Fire-Dex Hometown Hero award.

Cedar Falls (IA) Fire Rescue: Captain Derek Brown, Firefighter Troy Purdy, Firefighter Shane Farmer, and Firefighter Todd Taylor

On February 7, 2016, at 2342 hours, Cedar Falls Fire Rescue was dispatched to a residential fire with people possibly trapped. Two engines, a tanker, and seven firefighters responded.

The first-arriving paramedic reported smoke and fire conditions in the home. While responding to the call, Capt. Derek Brown from engine 501 was communicating with 911 Dispatch to confirm people trapped. After receiving confirmation that victims were still inside the house, Brown made the decision to perform search and rescue operations with his crew and advised the second-due engine 503 to begin suppression efforts.

First-arriving law enforcement officers attempted to extinguish the fire with a CAFS system, but they were unsuccessful. The police officers advised Brown and Firefighter Farmer that a mother and two children were at the back of the house. After a brief survey of the home, Brown and Farmer entered the dwelling through a burning door and began an oriented search. Brown and Farmer separated at his point, knowing victims may be at the front and back of the home.

Meanwhile Engine 503 arrived on scene. Taylor and Purdy used a hoseline to knock down the fire at the front door and entered with the hoseline to assist with search operations. Visibility was still zero. At the same time, Battalion Chief Schmidt arrived on scene with the tanker and assumed command.

          Farmer, Taylor, and Purdy reached the back bedroom of the dwelling and could hear a child. In less than a minute, they located a young child in a bathroom with a closed door. Taylor grabbed the child and exited the home by following the hoseline. Farmer and Purdy remained in the bedroom under zero visibility to continue searching. Purdy located a crib with a child lying in it. He and Farmer removed the child.

While this was taking place, Brown found the mother in the front bedroom. She was unable to escape because of the disorienting smoke conditions. Brown removed the victim through the bedroom window. He broke out the window and cleared all the glass before handing her out to the pump operator, who took her to the paramedics.

It took these four firefighters one minute and 26 seconds after arrival on scene to remove the three victims from the burning home. All three family members made a full recovery. A video documenting the incident is on YouTube “Cedar Falls Firefighters Rescue Family from House Fire.”

Firefighter/Paramedic David Dame West Metro Fire Rescue, Lakewood, Colorado

          On September 9, 2016, just about a half hour after midnight, frantic calls came into our dispatchers reporting a house fire and a five-year-old girl potentially trapped inside. One of the calls came from the girl’s mother. The father tried to rescue his child but was overcome by smoke and had to evacuate the house. We dispatched 13 units to the call; one was Tower 8 with Firefighters Dave Dame and Seth Major among those onboard.

On the way to the house, under the direction of their officer, Dame and Major geared up so they could jump off the truck and immediately enter the home to search for the girl.

On arrival, working as a team, they went inside the smoke-filled house, feeling their way up the stairs. Dame called to the girl to verify her location. Afraid and alone, she was hiding in her bedroom closet. While Dame went inside the room to locate the girl, Major stayed at the doorway to maintain situational awareness. Dame had to coax the five-year-old to come to him; she did. He held the girl, and they retreated downstairs and outside with Major’s help and guidance. The rescue was completed in less than two minutes from Tower 8’s arrival.

A number of factors played into the girl’s survival: the decision of the incident commander to put water on the fire from the outside of the house, which slowed the spread of the fire and gave the two firefighters more time to get inside and complete the rescue, and the decision of the Tower 8 officer, who made sure the firefighters were ready to step off the truck and get to work.

According to a newspaper report, the house was engulfed in flames. The flames had climbed up the back of the house, had broken through the girl’s bedroom window, and were rolling across the ceiling toward the girl’s closet.


Lieutenant Jerry W. Fickes, Wilmington (DE) Fire Department

At 0256 hours, September 24, 2016, the Wilmington Fire Department was dispatched to an initial report for a fire in the basement. While units were responding, it was reported that occupants may have returned to the house.

Heavy fire conditions were showing from the rear of the dwelling. Ladder 2 officer requested an additional engine company for a rapid intervention company. The fire structure was a two-story, middle of the row, type 3 constructed rowhouse. Heavy smoke was showing from both floors on the alpha side.

Lieutenant Christopher Leach and Firefighter Joseph Ryan began to enter by the front door. The first floor flashed over and became fully involved. Lieutenant Eric Haley and Firefighter Brad Speakman, Lieutenant John Cawthray, and Firefighter Ardythe Hope began to knock fire down and advance into the house on the first floor.

Visible fire on the first floor was quickly knocked down; Ladder 2 completed quick searching of the living area and began to move toward the second floor to continue the search.

On Squad 4’s arrival it split into two teams. Lieutenant Tyson and Firefighter Vinnie Denisio and the driver (Firefighter Jacob Craig) went to the front of the house to begin searches with Ladder 2. The second team, Firefighter Jerry Fickes and Firefighter Terry Tate reported to the rear of the house, where it was reported that three stories in the rear had heavy fire showing from the basement level (at grade in the rear). Unable to enter the rear of the house because of heavy fire conditions, Squad 4 team 2 (Fickes and Tate) entered the Bravo exposure to complete searches and check for extension.

As Ladder 2’s crew with support of Engine 5’s crew began to move to the second floor, Engine 1’s crew began to push toward the basement steps. A catastrophic collapse of the living room floor occurred, sending Ladder 2’s Leach, Engine 1’s Speakman, and Engine 5’s Hope into the fully involved basement. The other members operating on the first floor were forced to dive out of the front door as the fire conditions from the basement caused the first and second floors to flash over. As the house flashed over and members came rolling out the front door, Command immediately transmitted a Mayday for firefighters trapped.

Squad 4 Team 2 (Tate and Fickes) exited the Bravo exposure and, without the protection of a handline, entered the basement to rescue the trapped members.

Squad 4 team 1 (Tyson, Denisio, and Craig) began to work from the front door to knock down the fire and get to the trapped members in the basement. Craig saw Speakman put his hands up and attempt to pull himself up from the basement and grabbed Speakman and pulled him up from the basement and out the front door.

Battalion Chief 1 established the Charlie Division and took command of the rapid intervention operations. Fickes and Tate located Leach in the basement under nearly untenable conditions and began to move Leach toward the rear basement entrance.

As other firefighters were arriving to assist Fickes and Tate, a second collapse occurred, bringing the dining room and kitchen area flooring, furniture, and appliances on top of Tate, Fickes, and Leach. Tate was removed immediately with burns to his hands and face. Additional rapid intervention crews began knocking the fire down and pushing into the basement.

Crews found Fickes unconscious and in cardiac arrest. He was removed to the exterior, turned over to EMS, and transported to the hospital; he succumbed to his injuries.

Crews found and removed Hope through the rear basement door; she was turned over to EMS and transported by helicopter to the hospital and then a burn center. She ultimately succumbed to her injuries after a 68-day fight with burns over 80 percent of her body. After an extensive search operation, Leach was found in about three feet of debris in the rear half of the basement. He was posthumously promoted to captain; Fickes and Hope were posthumously promoted to lieutenant.


Engineer Steven Gunn, Peoria (AZ) Fire-Medical

On April 4, 2016, Engineer Gunn’s engine company was first to arrive at a house fire. On arrival, heavy smoke and fire were seen at the front of the occupancy. There were instantly met by Maricopa County Sheriff officers, who informed them that a man was down in the living room. The officers tried to rescue the victim, but the heat from the fire was too intense. In the process of trying to reach him, the officers sustained multiple heat-related injuries including smoke inhalation and burns to their bodies.

Engineer Gunn immediately entered the residence through the living room picture window while the remainder of his crew connected to a water supply and stretched the hoseline to the fire. The extreme temperatures melted Gunn’s helmet and burned his turnout. It took him about 30 seconds to get the victim to the windowsill, where his crew met him with the hoseline and extricated him from the building. The patient was treated and transported to the hospital. While in surgery, he, unfortunately, succumbed to his injuries.

Deputy Sheriff/Field Training Instructor Thomas Junkin

October 10, 2016, at 0235 hours while working uniform patrol, I was dispatched to an occupied structure fire. As we were responding, dispatch advised there were people trapped on the second-floor balcony. I arrived on scene and observed smoke and flames showing from the front, sides, and roof of a multistory residential condo row. Deputy Thompson and I were making our way to the front of the building when Deputy Arrington pointed us to the rear of the building where two adults and two animals were stuck on the rear balcony. Some neighbors had provided ladders. We placed a small ladder up to the second-floor balcony where the two adults were with their dogs.

Arrington, Wiedemann, and Thompson held the ladders as I climbed the ladder and observed heavy fire in the main residence and thick smoke coming out onto the balcony. I rescued one small dog and Sharon Hale and brought them to the ground to safety. I climbed back up the ladder and assisted William Hale down the ladder to safety. Thompson climbed the second ladder as I was assisting victim William Hale. I climbed back up the ladder. Thompson picked up a large brown dog and handed him to me. Once both adults and the dogs were safe, we all ensured that no other residences were occupied or people trapped. We then assisted the fire departments on scene.


Acting Lieutenant (former assistant chief) Stan Landry, Vernon (CT) Fire Department

On August14, 2016, Vernon Fire Department, EMS, police, Rockville Paramedic and numerous mutual aid from local, state, and federal agencies responded to a call for a house explosion and total structure collapse. Landry led the rescue of four trapped occupants and without a doubt is the common denominator for which the trapped occupants are alive today.

Landry wrote the following in the After-Action Report:

“I responded to the scene on Tower 141. I arrived on scene to find a two-story, wood-frame residential home collapsed. No fire/smoke or hazmat odors were noted at the time. The A side wall collapsed outward on the vehicles in the front, exposing most of the second floor. The first floor was collapsed to approximately four feet behind the vehicles and building materials. The B side had heavy exterior wall damage; the bottom was pushed outward. The front side was still mostly upright on a near 60° angle, and the back side was nearly horizontal, approximately five feet off the ground as the structure leaned toward the D side. The C side wall was also collapsed outward. The D side was also collapsed outward on vehicles parked alongside the building.

“Tower 541 already set up on the A side of the building over the driveway. Car 41 set up command Alpha side across the street, and Vernon EMS on the Alpha side (Firefighter Dube was in contact with one party toward the A/D corner). While doing a 360 size-up, I came across two Vernon police officers in the C yard and a male party who was trying to look inside, stating he was looking for his family. The male party was ambulating and had injuries to his face. I asked how many people were not accounted for. He answered four. At the time, I asked the police to escort the man back to the A side and stay with him for further questioning.

“At that time, I met with Lt. David Williams and other firefighters in the back. We began calling from outside the structure for occupants. A female voice replied from inside that she was injured and stuck. Williams and I entered the C side (near the B corner) under the collapsed wall. We moved toward the front of the building looking in voids and shining lights under building materials as we continued to speak to the female and work toward her way. We crawled downward and in about 10 feet under an open studded wall or floor. There, we came across a partially blocked doorway (only about three feet of the upper opening was clear). Inside that doorway was a little natural lighting; it was difficult to see with flashlights. Downed building material was noted in all directions, and the female’s voice neared from the right side (toward the front of the house). We began digging through building material on what we believed to be the first floor, but it was now below grade.

“Victim 1. After clearing some building material, we found the female who was calling for help. She was lying on her back, unable to move because her lower half was covered with building material. She was alert. She didn’t know the locations of the other. From the same location, we found the other victims.

“Victim 2. Behind victim 1, closer toward the front of the house, a little boy was lying with his feet toward us, slightly elevated on a platform. He was not responding and did not appear to be entangled.

“Victim 3 was to the left of victim 1, buried under building materials and metal mesh (believed to be a dog crate) from his waist up. His legs were thrashing about; he was unable to talk back when he was called. The only part of his upper torso visible was his right forearm and hand that was stuck in the crate.

“Victim 4 was seen far toward the left, elevated above us on what appeared to be a wall from perhaps an upper floor. The only portion visible was his back. The victim was being aided by fire department personnel from the outside.

“Williams continued clearing material from around Victim 1 but was unable to free her legs. Both legs were pinned with long pieces of lumber. A reciprocating saw was requested. Williams kept talking to the victim while the other victims were being freed. Meanwhile, I began cutting the crate with a bolt cutter to free the arm of Victim 3 and clear some of the building material covering him. Williams reported he thought he could get to Victim 2, so we both reached for him and passed him through the door opening to where three firefighters were stationed.

“I returned to digging down through gypsum board and wood until finally reaching Victim 3’s head. His head was twisted and pinned under a wall. I lifted a section of the wall with a halligan bar enough so I could support his head as Williams and Boulette dragged him clear. We supported him up and passed him out through the door to firefighters.

“Williams and I returned to Victim 1 with the reciprocating saw. As he began cutting the lumber that pinned her legs, we had to continually adjust for soft spots in the debris. William’ leg fell through a hole. I helped him to free himself. He moved aside to remove his air apparatus. Boulette came to assist. We finished cutting the boards and freed Victim 1. She was placed on a backboard and began to move out. Whole moving Victim1, Boulette’s legs got caught in voids under the backboard. I moved the backboard from Boulette and handed it out to two firefighters. At that time, all three of our victims were removed, and we crawled out of the structure.”


Firefighter Danny Lovato, Washington, DC, Fire Department

On March 9, 2016, a kitchen fire trapped an occupant, 65-year-old Mrs. Phyllis Terrell, in an adjacent apartment. The woman, engulfed in heavy black smoke, leaned over the bars that rose halfway up her third-story window. Lovato’s eyes and those of the woman locked; he knew she was going to jump. He told her not to do it and that he would be up to her quickly.

Lovato threw a ladder against the side of the building and tried to convince the woman to hold on. Two firefighters raced inside and reached her. She could not breathe any more of the toxic, superheated air, and it was too risky to take her down the ladder. Lovato pulled off his oxygen mask and handed it to the woman. He gave his air tank to the firefighters inside.

While the two firefighters took Terrell down the stairs, Lovato make his way down the ladder, his windpipe choked with soot and burned by the heat. Once there, Lovato said, he knew he could not pull the victim over the railing because of the height, so he gave her his breathing apparatus instead. Lovato was in the hospital’s intensive care unit for three days; the woman’s life was saved.

Lovato said he thought that since he was on the exterior of the building, he would be able to breathe without his air mask. “I was wrong,” he says. Smoke from building fires is so toxic that it took my breath away immediately. When I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I would bring Phyllis’ head toward my chest and take a couple of deep puffs from my mask and then replace the mask on her. We did this for four or five minutes.

Firefighters entered through the building helped evacuate the occupant, who was still wearing Lovato’s air cylinder and mask.

Firefighter Oliver McDonagh, Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department

Firefighter McDonagh was involved in two courageous rescue incidents months apart. One of McDonagh’s rescues was at a major fire and the other at a confined space incident. Both are recorded.

On the cold morning of February 13, 2016, the Philadelphia Fire Department was dispatched for a reported fire in an auto body shop. First-in companies arrived to find a one-story, auto body shop, 50 feet × 1 block, with medium to heavy smoke showing. Companies began to stretch hoseline for an aggressive interior attack, and all hand companies were dispatched, including Squad C 72.

The first-in engine, Pipeline Co. 52, was met by employees reporting a heater on fire toward the rear of the building. After several minutes of advancing into the building, conditions deteriorated; it became clear the fire involved much more than a heater. With high heat and zero visibility, Pipeline 52 withdrew with its line from the building. Somewhere in the process of their withdrawal, the backup firefighter lost contact with the hoseline and became disoriented and lost inside the building. The officer and nozzle firefighter successfully withdrew and discovered they were missing a member. Simultaneously, the lost firefighter realized the severity of his situation and transmitted a Mayday, stating that he was lost in the building.

Squad 72 arrived as the Mayday was transmitted and immediately reported to the battalion chief in charge, who ordered them to go in service to locate and remove the lost firefighter. The pressure and volume of smoke was rapidly increasing.

McDonagh, the first member of Squad 72 to reach the door of the building, immediately entered the building without the protection of a hoseline and began a search. The officer and another member of Squad 72 obtained a hoseline and followed in behind McDonagh. As he conducted a right-hand search in zero visibility and high heat, McDonagh pushed forward deeper in the building. He physically ran into the disoriented missing firefighter, quickly assessed him, and started the trip out of the building. Shortly after being located by McDonagh, however, the lost firefighter collapsed from exhaustion and prolonged exposure to high heat. The other member of Squad 72 linked up with McDonagh and physically dragged the collapsed firefighter through zero visibility, following the hoseline they brought with them.

They successfully removed him before he sustained any serious injuries

Within minutes of removing the lost firefighter from the building, a flashover occurred across the entire auto body shop, and flames enveloped the doorway the firefighters had just exited. Companies transitioned to a defensive attack, the fire eventually reached six alarms and destroyed the building. Despite the loss of the building, all exposure structures were protected, and the swift actions of McDonagh and other Squad 72 firefighters prevented an almost certain line-of-duty death.

Incident 2

On the hot afternoon of July 7, 2016, Philadelphia police were called to the intersection of 9th and Pike streets for a male high on drugs who had climbed into a corner storm drain and refused to get out. Police arrived and confronted the man, who then dived under the standing water and entered an 18-inch sewer drain pipe, disappearing from site. This action prompted a confined space rescue response from the Philadelphia Fire Department, bringing McDonagh and other members of Squad Co. 72 to the scene.

For the better part of two hours, the department tried in vain to locate the missing male, who was now somewhere in the Philadelphia sewer system. The Water Department arrived; but because of the age of the system, they were unable to produce accurate maps of where the various sewer pipes led. During this time McDonagh and other fire department personnel made several entries into area storm drains to locate the missing male.

After an extended period of searching, a Water Department employee heard faint human noises in the sewer system. With no knowledge of the sewer layout, McDonagh climbed 20 feet down a manway and searched the pitch-black sewer lines flowing raw sewage. Following sound alone, he crawled on hand and knees down several small connecting pipes until he located the missing man, deranged but uninjured, lying face down in a stream of sewage. McDonagh established communication with the man and convinced him to crawl after him as he backtracked his way through the dark sewer lines. Arriving at the manway, he tried to harness the man for vertical removal, but the man would not allow himself to be harnessed. On coaxing from personnel at street level, the victim began to climb the manway ladder. McDonagh began to climb the ladder directly behind him to protect him should he slip or choose to let go in his mentally compromised state. After 20 feet of climbing, the victim was removed and turned over to the police and EMS personnel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Lieutenant Robert Meuser, Fire Department of New York

On November 7, 2016, Ladder 48 was dispatched to Box 2547 from quarters for a phone alarm reporting a fire on the fifth floor of 1038 Southern Boulevard. En route, the dispatcher updated units that there were several calls for a fire with additional reports of a woman trapped in apartment 16 on the fifth floor. Meuser acknowledged that report over the radio, confirming the apartment as 16. Sensing the company may be going to work, Meuser verbally relayed this information to the member of Ladder 48 on the back step.

As Ladder 48 Firefighter Michael Fenick pulled up and positioned the apparatus in front of 1038 Southern Boulevard, Meuser noticed numerous tenants rapidly exiting the building’s front door. As he stepped off the rig to size up the front of the building, no smoke was showing, but there was a strong odor of wood burning in the air, so he relayed to Captain Robert Narducci of Engine 94 that he smelled wood burning.

As Meuser entered the building with his inside team, Firefighter Matthew Dematteis (irons) and Firefighter Bryon Appleholm (can), several tenants reported a fire on floor five. Seconds later, another individual informed Meuser, “There’s a woman trapped inside apartment 16.” As Meuser and his inside team ascended the interior stairs, Fenick radioed to them: “I have tenants in the street stating a woman is trapped in apartment 16.” Meuser acknowledged and confirmed the apartment, continuing the fast-paced climb to the top floor.

The odor of smoke got stronger and stronger; he could see smoke on the landing above him. Meuser transmitted the 10-75 for a fire on the fifth floor. The inside team continued climbing the stairs and arrived on the fifth-floor public hallway, where they encountered a civilian frantically banging on the door of the fire apartment. The hysterical civilian confirmed a woman was trapped. Meuser than directed the civilian to get off the fire floor.

Realizing that time was ticking away and a confirmed life was in jeopardy, he directed Dematteis to force open the locked apartment door. As Dematteis calmly and professionally worked his way around an angle iron and locks on the door of apartment 16, Meuser donned his facepiece and hood as he sized up the apartment door. He could clearly see smoke pushing under pressure from around the door frame. Dematteis skillfully made quick work of the locked door and forced it open. As they controlled the door, Meuser and Dematteis were met with high heat and heavy smoke billowing out of the entrance to the apartment.

With his face piece donned, Meuser quickly crawled a few feet into the apartment hallway, encountering zero visibility; he could feel high heat above him. Checking the ceiling level with the thermal imaging camera, he could see convected heat at ceiling level coming from the far end of the hallway. With seconds ticking away, a confirmed life hazard, and conditions rapidly deteriorating, Meuser wanted a better grasp of the apartment layout to expedite his search. He sprawled out and dropped to his stomach to try and see below the smoke along the apartment floor. He placed his head on the floor and quickly scanned his flashlight ahead of him. He could barely make out the first two doorways to his right. Suddenly, he made out what looked like the occupant’s feet among various other clutter further down the hot apartment hall. He moved fast and low under the high heat and smoke above him. He pushed deeper into the apartment, making a left-handed search, eventually making his way to the woman. He found her unconscious, limp, and face up; she was not breathing.

There was no charged handline in position because of the difficult stretch and the absence of a well hole. He immediately transmitted his discovery of the 10-45 to Battalion 3. Meuser saw the glow of fire just above and head of them. Shielding the woman from the heat above him and aware of the narrow width of the hallway, he began removing the victim down the hallway toward the apartment entrance. Moving into the apartment behind Meuser was Dematteis, who had made his way into the immediately dangerous to life or health area after forcing the door. Dematteis met Meuser, then maneuvered himself behind the victim and assisted in removing her from the deteriorating apartment hallway as the heat and smoke passed above them. Meuser passed the victim to Firefighter Appleholm, who was now at the entrance door; the team facilitated the victim’s removal into the public hallway. Realizing the victim’s grave condition, Meuser quickly transmitted to B-3: “We need EMS forthwith” and said they were bringing her down.

After the victim was removed to safety, Meuser and Appleholm reentered the deteriorating apartment to continue the primary search to locate and confine the fire while Captain Narducci controlled the door. The 85-year-old victim was treated and transported to the hospital in critical condition.


Firefighter/Deputy Fire Chief Steven Edward Price, Hamlin (PA) Fire & Rescue Company

On Saturday, July 9, 2016, at about 10:30 p.m., a teenage girl fell down a 100-foot-deep well in Covington Township, Lackawanna County. Deputy Chief Price was called to assist the police. On arrival, Price, who is rescue trained and a certified EMT, assessed the situation and determined that someone had to go into the well immediately to assess the victim’s injuries and prevent her from slipping beneath the water’s surface, which was 100 feet below the well opening.

Price, without hesitation, removed his duty gear and, without the benefit of a rappelling harness or rope, entered the well shaft and descended the well by hand and foot. He used a permanent ladder that had been originally installed with the well many years ago. The ladder was rusted and in poor condition at best. He continued downward knowing the inherent dangers. He eventually reached the victim and began to assess her injuries. He determined that she had suffered a fractured leg and an injured hip and was becoming hypothermic from the low water temperature. She was frightened, cold, and injured; and she begged him not to leave her.

At this time, he entered the water and secured the victim from behind and held onto her until other rescuers could arrive and devise a plan and erect a rigging system to haul her up and out of the well safely. This would take about three hours. Price held onto her and promised he would not leave. She was eventually extracted from the well and taken by ambulance to the hospital. Price was also transported to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia.

Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware. Prince George’s County, Maryland

          On April 20, 2016, Chief Ware was on the way home when he noticed smoke on the road ahead of him. He suspected it was a vehicle fire. As he neared the incident, he saw that it was a vehicle fire. He noticed that an adult female driver was still inside the vehicle.

After radioing public safety communications for the appropriate resources, he attempted to remove the victim from the vehicle. He was unsuccessful; all four doors were locked, and the woman was nonresponsive to his instruction to unlock her door.

The fire beneath the vehicle was growing larger and progressing into the free burning phase, increasing the urgency of the situation. He hurried to his vehicle and surveyed the surrounding area for something he could use to gain entry into the vehicle.

A retired fire/EMS department Lieutenant Colonel was traveling along the same route, saw the incident, and stopped to assist. An unidentified bystander retrieved a construction tool from his vehicle to assist with a second attempt to access the vehicle.

Forcible entry was in progress when the victim inadvertently stepped on the gas pedal, driving the vehicle down the slope, off the shoulder of the road. The fire was now at a difficult angle with extension into the engine compartment, posing greater peril. It was imperative to effect this rescue immediately to prevent what could be a tragic outcome.

With the help of the bystander, the chief and the lieutenant colonel managed to get down the slope and access the passenger side of the vehicle. The new positon of the vehicle had rendered the driver’s side inaccessible. The construction tool was used to break the passenger side window. Chief Ware reached inside the vehicle and unlocked the door. Smoke was rapidly filling the vehicle, and the engine compartment was now fully involved. It was a matter of time before fire reached the passenger compartment. Ware reached over the front passenger seat, accessed the unresponsive victim, lifted her from the driver’s seat and across the passenger side of the car. Ware then carried her up the hill and across the street. Barrier protection had not yet been established; but, thankfully, traffic had stopped.

Other fire/EMS personnel returning from the funeral had arrived on the scene by then; the patient was placed in their care for medical evaluation and treatment. Ware repositioned his vehicle to use as barrier protection. Within moments following the rescue, the woman’s vehicle was fully involved. An engine company and an ALS unit from a nearby fire station arrived a couple of minutes later. The fire was extinguished; the patient was transported to a hospital.


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