IAFF Local-1132 held their Annual Awards Dinner (Fireman’s Ball) Friday night, December 5, 2014. I had the honor and privilege of assisting in presenting 2 members with the honor of Firefighter of the Year.
In the face of adversity, the members of L-1132 (and firefighters around the Country) accomplish extraordinary deeds in service of their fellow man. The room last Friday night (as is our firehouses everyday) was full of sacrifice and true Heroes.
This year, the Awards Ceremony went a little differently as 4 members were recognized as Firefighter of the Year. There were also several Unit Citations awarded as well as individual Citations and recognition of our Retirees.
I got to assist in the presentation because I wrote the letter of recommendation…. well, one of them any way.
I wrote concerning the actions of Station #3 (Engine / Medic) C-shift on a fire in an apartment building where 8 rescues were made. Two members from that Company, Captain Robert Perdue and FF Jason Focht were awarded Firefighter of the Year. Captain Perdue described the event as “a house of cards”meaning that each member was holding the other up and if even one of them had failed in their duties, the entire incident would have collapsed.
It was truly a team effort where the members discipline and training shined through. The other members of that Company were Lt. Tina O’Brien, FF. Jacob Parry, FF/Medic Brandon Vaughn and FF/Medic Billy White.
Here’s the letter I submitted ….
“On the night of March 12, 2014 Companies from C-shift’s North Battalion responded to a reported structure fire at 4815 Rutgers.
The call was received at approx. 10:30 pm during freezing temperatures and very high / strong winds.
Engine #3 arrived to find a 3 story apartment building with smoke and flames showing.
The thick black smoke was pouring from all 3 floors while the wind driven fire had engulfed a 1st floor apartment. Fire was blowing out the windows and threatening the upper floors. Heavy flames were also rapidly extending out the apartment door and pushing down the hallway which was the only means of egress for the occupants. The hallway was later described as a “tornado of fire”!
Multiple victims were trapped inside the building and hanging out of the upper story windows calling for help.
Engine 3’s Captain, Robert Perdue; calmly gave a detailed size up and put his members to work. He quickly split his crew in an effort to attack the fire and perform rescues simultaneously.
While Firefighters Brandon Vaughn and Jake Parry were stretching an attack line, Captain Perdue assisted Firefighter Jason Focht (pronounced “FOLK”) in setting a ground ladder to a 3rd floor window located above the fire.
Fast spreading flames from the window engulfed the ladder as Firefighter Focht made his way to the trapped occupants. As this was happening, Firefighters Vaughn and Parry initiated a transitional attack, protecting Captain Perdue and FF Focht and then advanced into the hallway pushing on to the seat of the fire.
Captain Perdue, Firefighter Focht and Firefighter Billy White were able to rescue 3 people from that window, two in critical condition with life threatening injuries.
The Incident quickly escalated to a 2nd Alarm fire. Under the direction of Captain Scott Graham who established Command from Engine #2 and Captain Todd Stone, who was the Acting Battalion and assumed Command from Graham; additional Companies were given various assignments upon arrival.
Engine #13, Ladders 2 and 5 all made additional rescues that night.
Despite the rapidly growing and heavy fire conditions, blocking all egress from the structure; a total of 8 rescues were made that night. The 2 noted as being in critical condition would later recover so, remarkably; there were no fatalities associated with this fire.
It is without question that the quick thinking and actions of Captain Robert Perdue and the crew of Engine / Medic #3 C-Shift saved lives that night.
In closing, I’d like to nominate Captain Robert Perdue and Firefighter Jason Focht for “Firefighter of the Year”. I would also like to nominate the entire crew of Station #3C for a Unit Citation.
Unit Citations should also be considered for Engine 2, Engine 13, Ladder 2 and Ladder 5 C-shift for their efforts and additional rescues from the 2nd and 3rd floors.
In addition, I would add that Captain Todd Stone (Station #5-C) should also be recognized for his leadership and command presence that night as I believe every bench mark was met with speed and efficiently.
Considering weather conditions and the circumstances encountered that night, every member on scene performed above expectations which resulted in a positive outcome and the successful mitigation of this incident.
Captain Willie Wines Jr. Engine Company #13-C”
Beyond Station #3, Engine #2, Engine #5, Engine #13, Ladder #2, and Ladder #5 also received Unit Citations.
In essence, our Entire Battalion (with the exception of Engine #14 who wasn’t on scene) was recognized for this fire!
What’s not included in my letter is the fact that although a 2nd Alarm was requested, it was NEVER DISPATCHED!
The entire Incident was handled with a 1st Alarm Assignment …. 8 rescues (all from the upper floors), 38 residents displaced, no fatalities and no injuries to Firefighters!
The other two members are assigned to A-shift, with Lt Rhett Fleitz (aka The Fire Critic) and Captain Mac Craft who both submitted a letter on behalf of their members.
The Incident came in as an AFA (Automatic Fire Alarm). Actually, it’s more like a trouble alarm because they run this location regularly …. VERY regularly and its usually due to burnt food or a malfunction with the system.
The complex houses the elderly and is just blocks from their station. Just prior to arrival, dispatch notified them of confirmation of a “large” fire inside the building. Before she finished the transmission, they could see it.
Firefighters Rachael Miller and Aaron Parker had their hands full for the first several minutes.
They stretched up the stairwell, assisted civilians in self-evacuating and located the fire room. There, they found the seriously injured occupant in the hallway.
They removed the victim from the building via the stairs. FF Miller stayed with the victim and rendered medical treatment until an ambulance arrive. FF Parker went back to the fire floor and assisted Captain Craft in extinguishing the fire.
I’d like to thank Local-1132 for recognizing the accomplishments of their members. I’d also like to once again say CONGRATULATIONS to all of the recipients of Firefighter of the Year, Unit / Individual Citation and the various other awards. Strong work and WELL DONE!
Stay SAFE and in House!