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Colorado Fire Crew Faces Perfect Storm in Dramatic Rescue: 2012 Ben Franklin Valor

On February 23, North Metro Fire Rescue District responded to a call that truly reminds us of how seconds matter.

Battalion Chief Hanlon's Crew 63 was on scene at 4:26 am during a domestic violence dispute where a suspect had been assaulting his wife before he quickly entered back into his home. A flash of fire was noticed through the duplex's front bedroom window by North Metro firefighters. They quickly jumped into action, requesting a full structure response and a major incident tone to the residence.

During this time, the assault victim made a second call to 9-1-1, screaming that her husband was going to kill her children inside the home. Meanwhile, police officers were trying to get inside and found that the front door was barricaded and the garage door was also blocked with furniture. The officers broke through the barricaded door while North Metro firefighters prepared to enter the home.

Inside the air was heavily charged and a stairway was engulfed in flames. Accelerants soaked the carpeting and a large outdoor gas grill was turned on at the bottom of the stairs. Heavy smoke blanketed the first floor, but Rescue Crew 63 pressed on, even though the deranged husband, armed with a weapon, was somewhere inside.

Firefighters pushed through these vigorous circumstances to the second floor. They didn't know where the suspect was, but they proceeded without hesitation to begin rescuing the victims. Police officers provided cover for the firefighters, explaining that they knew some of the victims were children, who were heard screaming from upstairs.

Firefighters successfully extinguished some of the fire on the unstable stairwell, allowing them get to the second floor. Outside, Engineer/Firefighter Deuto dealt with the hoses and the hysterical mother. Inside the smoke-filled duplex, Lieutenant Maes directed his crew. Firefighters Hamilton and Maxwell located the semiconscious husband—sprawled in a bedroom, lighter in hand and weapon nearby—and pulled him to safety.

Meanwhile, Firefighter Brereton reached another bedroom and pulled an unconscious 18-month-old child from the heavy smoke and heat. He carried him outside to Battalion Chief Hanlon who immediately began CPR, clearing the boy's airway and restoring shallow breathing before the paramedics took over. Hanlon then returned to his role of incident commander.

Feeling his way around the walls of the third bedroom, curtained in smoke, Lieutenant Maes discovered an unconscious five-year-old child, who has suffered significant burns over 60% of her body. The crew feverishly tended to her as she was sped to the hospital. Exhausted but undaunted, Maes and Brereton rushed back in and rescued the family's large, unconscious dog.

Within minutes that ominous morning, North Metro Fire Rescue Crew 63 had pulled three people from certain death, treated and transported six to local hospitals, including the battered wife and two police officers who suffered smoke inhalation, and taken the family's dog to an emergency vet center. Due to their extraordinary bravery, training and best practices in the face of impending danger, all the victims are alive today.

As this perfect storm unfolded, North Metro Fire Rescue District remained on solid ground, providing its best all-hazard response capabilities using fire-based EMS. This gave Crew 63 the opportunity to put saving the lives of the children first and foremost, even in a potentially harmful situation that was undergoing tragic circumstances.

These successful rescues can be rare in such a horrific environment. This dynamic incident proved that with the proper training, commitment and determination, North Metro Fire Rescue Crew 63 was able to do the right thing. They were able to provide the two innocent children involved a chance at life and we are happy to report that the two children are out of the hospital despite their significant injuries.

Commending the valiant efforts of his firefighters, Chief Joseph Bruce said, "Our crews see it all—the good, the bad and the unfortunate. It is nothing but an honor to have personnel who display true courage and professionalism when times get tough."

Chief Joseph Bruce of North Metro Fire Rescue in Colorado submitted this nomination.

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