Charlotte, N.C. – On the stormy evening of Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, multiple lightning strikes ignited the roof of the Mount Pleasant Place retirement complex in Monroe, Ohio. Monroe Fire Department’s first responding crew acted with courage and expertise to save the lives of senior citizens trapped on the top floor, directly under the burning roof. In what could have been a catastrophic situation, instead all of the residents were rescued as the fire spread, before the roof collapsed and thick smoke rapidly engulfed the three-story building.
The Fire Department’s heroic actions are being heralded with the prestigious 2017 International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)/Motorola Solutions Ben Franklin Award for Valor. This award recognizes firefighters around the world for their expert training, leadership, heroic actions and safe practices. Named after Benjamin Franklin, the nation’s first fire chief, it is the highest honor bestowed by IAFC.
Medals will be presented at Fire-Rescue International’s (FRI) general session on July 27, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Monroe Fire Department honorees will include:
- Lieutenants Scott Clasgens, Chris Marker and Russell Rickard
- Fire Medics Josh Spradling and Paul Peters
Courageous actions save lives
When crews arrived at the Mount Pleasant Place complex, they saw a fire spreading throughout the north wing roofline of the retirement community. Residents were hanging out of windows calling for help; those trapped in their apartments were frantically dialing 9-1-1. Inside, conditions were growing deadlier by the minute. Smoke was knee-level on the top floor, the roof was failing and debris was falling on firefighters as they knocked on every door and forced entry into apartments to pull people out.
Senior citizens with canes, walkers, hover chairs and wheelchairs were struggling to evacuate. The elevators were offline and landings were bottle-necked by those who couldn’t escape on their own. Many residents needed to be carried down the stairs in the first 15 minutes of the fire.
Before the roof collapsed and materials rained down, the crews relied on their training, experience and understanding of the conditions to quickly assess risks and save lives in jeopardy. By the time the fire was contained three hours later, a citizen and a firefighter sustained injuries and 69 people were safely evacuated.
Chief John Centers of the Monroe Fire Department emphasizes that there could have been more serious injuries if not for the quick actions of first responders and the Mount Pleasant Place staff. Their training was crucial in getting residents out safely during this emergency.
More than 100 firefighters from 14 area departments provided mutual aid to Monroe firefighters along with assistance from the Red Cross.
“This was a career fire,” says Chief Centers. “It is difficult to imagine a worse scenario than the one we encountered, with that many people in harm’s way. Our responders took substantial risks, but their training and commitment showed. The decisions made by our public safety staff that day allowed us to have a successful mission.”
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 spills, 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 products and services available to first responders. Learn more