Shortly after noon on February 14, several units of the Biloxi (Miss.) Fire Department responded to a structure fire report; upon arriving, crews found a single-story home engulfed in flames with heavy smoke.
The home was a multi-family dwelling set up like makeshift apartments, with several families living there, some of whom spoke Spanish and very little English.
A Spanish-speaking firefighter and police officer learned that two small girls—two and five years old—could still be inside the burning home. Investigators believe the children's mother had left them unattended while she went shopping.
Everything changed. The resident directed the firefighters to a bedroom in the back of the house where the children should be located and Firefighters Andy Cosper and Chris Denton immediately forced entry through the bedroom window. They dove into the room, where they were met with zero visibility and intense heat.
When Cosper found the two-year-old, he thought he had found a doll because she was so small and still; she was unconscious and unresponsive. They passed her through the window to Captain Steve Dunaway, who was waiting outside the window, and he immediately began resuscitation.
Firefighters Cosper and Denton then continued their search and quickly located the other child, who was also unconscious and overcome by the smoke. They passed her also through the same window to Firefighter Gabe Haynes, who immediately began resuscitation.
When they were found, both girls were on the floor and not breathing; a few more seconds and the little girls would not have survived. The resuscitative efforts were successful; both were breathing on their own by the time they were transported to the hospital.
As the ambulance left with them, the firefighters didn't know if they would survive. They immediately returned to fighting the fire. Saving these girls makes this call one the firefighters will remember for years.
Besides the heroic efforts of these firefighters, several other factors contributed to their success: Having Spanish-speaking first responders on hand helped avoid a tragedy. In addition, there are more than 170 firefighters with the Biloxi Fire Department and all of them are certified in CPR.
Assistant Chief Kirk Noffsinger submitted this Valor Award nomination.