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Hilton Head Island Fire Department Honored with Ben Franklin Award for Valor

Kansas City, MO - Today the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Motorola Solutions recognized the brave and heroic actions of Battalion Chief David Bell, Fire Apparatus Operator Brendan Horlbeck, and Lieutenant Sean Kavlick with the prestigious Ben Franklin Award for Valor. This award is presented to individuals or teams who demonstrate exceptional courage and selflessness in the face of danger, and their extraordinary life-saving efforts exemplify the true spirit of valor.

The fateful morning of September 9, 2022, at 0306 hours, the Hilton Head Island 911 Center received multiple distress calls reporting a structure fire at 1 Dinghy. When they arrived on the scene, they were confronted with a 3-story single-family residential home engulfed in flames, with 75% of the structure involved. Despite the challenging conditions, they knew they had to act swiftly, as three of the six occupants were unaccounted for. Captain Dave Bell, along with his team members, exhibited remarkable bravery by entering the structure without the aid of a handline to initiate the search for the missing individuals. The interior conditions were extremely hazardous, with high heat and zero visibility posing substantial risks to the crew. Undeterred, they proceeded with determination, knowing that their actions were critical to the lives of those trapped inside.

During the perilous search, one of the crew members contacted what they believed to be a victim. The deteriorating conditions made it difficult to confirm visually, but Captain Bell recalled that one of the missing individuals had a walking boot. The crew members were able to verify the presence of a boot on the victim, and with the team's combined efforts, they managed to remove the victim from the residence. The immediate life-saving measures performed, and the assistance provided by other personnel outside of the structure played a vital role in saving the victim's life. The victim was transported to Hilton Head Hospital and eventually transferred to the burn unit in Augusta, GA, where she made a remarkable recovery.

Despite their valiant efforts, the outcome was not without sorrow, as another of the unaccounted-for occupants was later found deceased in the heavily involved area of the fire. The occupants of the home were co-workers who were celebrating the retirement of the fire fatality victim, making the rescue mission even more emotionally charged and demanding. The crew’s actions have been deeply appreciated by the surviving family and friends of the fire victim and other occupants. The positive outcomes of their heroic endeavors have left an indelible mark on the community. In recognition of their bravery and life-saving rescue efforts, they received a departmental unit citation and the prestigious IAFC Medal of Valor.

The IAFC and Motorola are proud to honor them with the Ben Franklin Award for Valor, highlighting their exceptional dedication to serving the community and exemplifying the true spirit of heroism in the firefighting profession.

Pete Piringer / ppiringer@iafc.org

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials response, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest best practices and services available for first responders. In 2023, the IAFC proudly commemorates its 150th anniversary.

About Motorola Solutions
Motorola Solutions is a global leader in public safety and enterprise security. Our solutions in land mobile radio communications, video security & access control and command center software, bolstered by managed & support services, create an integrated technology ecosystem to help make communities safer and businesses stay productive and secure. At Motorola Solutions, we’re ushering in a new era in public safety and security. Learn more.

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