Colorado Fire Crew Overcomes Perfect Storm in February Rescue

During icy conditions and howling winds on Feb. 23, 2012, North Metro Fire Rescue Crew 63 of Broomfield/Northglenn, Colo., confronted all the elements of a perfect storm: a deranged husband, his battered wife, barricaded doors, an intentional fire and two young children trapped on the second floor of their home.        

Battalion Chief Timothy Hanlon, Lieutenant John Maes, Firefighters Josh Hamilton, Josh Deuto, John Brereton and Mark Maxwell of the North Metro Fire Rescue District are the heroic recipients of the 2012 International Benjamin Franklin Fire Service Award for Valor, co-sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Motorola Solutions, Inc.

The Franklin Award for Valor recognizes firefighters around the world for their expert training, leadership, heroic actions and safe practices and is the highest honor bestowed by the IAFC. The medals were presented at the general session at Fire-Rescue International on Aug. 3 in Denver.

A Heroic Response

It was an unforgiving February dawn when a call went out to 9-1-1. An anguished woman tells the dispatcher, “He’s killing my children! Get my children out!” Police officers are called to a Northglenn, Colo., duplex and find a panic-stricken woman outside, bruised and bloodied by her estranged husband who barricaded himself and her children inside their home. Furniture blocks the doors as he torches the stairs leading to the upstairs. Police officers batter down a door but a swirling wall of smoke pushes them back. As firefighters arrive on scene, two officers force their way in, clearing a path for Rescue Crew 63 to begin saving lives.
 
Inside the house, the air is heavily charged and a stairway is engulfed in flames. Accelerants soak the carpet and a large outdoor gas grill is turned on at the bottom of the stairs. Heavy smoke blankets the first floor but Rescue Crew 63 presses on, even though the deranged and armed husband is somewhere inside.

Without a moment’s hesitation and with the pleas of the mother foremost on their minds, Rescue Crew 63 uses their charged hoses to push past the fire and smoke to gain access to the second floor where the young children are trapped. Outside, Engineer/Firefighter Deuto attends to the hoses and aids the panicked and injured mother. Inside the smoke-filled duplex, Lieutenant Maes directs his crew. Firefighters Hamilton and Maxwell locate the unconscious husband, who is sprawled in a bedroom, lighter in hand and weapon nearby, and they pull him to safety.

Firefighter Brereton reaches another bedroom and pulls an unconscious 18-month old child from the heavy smoke and heat. He carries him outside to Battalion Chief Hanlon, serving as the Incident Commander, who immediately begins CPR, clearing the boy’s airway and restoring shallow breathing before the paramedics take over.

Feeling his way around the walls of the third bedroom curtained in smoke, Lieutenant Maes discovers an unconscious five-year old child who has suffered significant burns over 60 percent of her body. The crew feverishly tends to her as she is sped to the hospital. Exhausted but undaunted, Maes and Brereton rush back in and rescue the family’s large, unconscious dog.    

Within minutes that morning, North Metro Fire Rescue Crew 63 has pulled three people, treated and transported six to local hospitals, including two police officers who suffered smoke inhalation, and taken the family’s dog to an emergency veterinarian center. Due to their extraordinary bravery, training and best practices in the face of impending danger, the two children are alive today and have a chance at life.

Commending the valiant efforts of his firefighters and winners of this year’s Benjamin Franklin Award for Valor, 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.”

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