Dallas, Texas -
In the early morning hours of September 6, 2017, a two-alarm fire erupted blocks away from Clackamas, Oregon, Fire District #1. As flames engulfed a two-story dwelling, Heavy Rescue 305 (HR305) was first to respond. Reaching the top floor, they broke a window and deployed a personal bail-out system to lower a woman to safety as the fire flashed inside.
Their courageous actions in a lifesaving rescue are being lauded with the 2018 IAFC Ben Franklin Award for Valor sponsored by Motorola Solutions. Medals of Honor will be presented to Captain Kyle Olson, apparatus operator Andrew Brian, and firefighters Scott Kohler and Matt Towner on August 9 at Fire-Rescue International (FRI) in Dallas, Texas.
The IAFC Ben Franklin Award for Valor recognizes firefighters worldwide for their expert training, leadership, heroic actions and safe practices. Named after the nation’s first fire chief, Benjamin Franklin, it is the most prestigious honor a department can receive from the IAFC.
Saving a woman trapped in a burning house
As District 1’s rig rounded the corner from their station, HR305 saw an orange glow over the roofs ahead. A huge volume of fire was enveloping a two-story wooden house. Outside, two women who escaped the flames shouted that a friend was trapped inside.
Rapidly assessing the situation, Captain Olson and operator Brian of HR305 attempted to enter through an exterior door, but were beat back by high heat and falling debris. Meanwhile, firefighters Kohler and Towner pushed through a rear door to confront intense fire, heat and smoke inside. Racing upstairs, with the carpet melting under their boots, they searched for the victim. Captain Olson directed hose lines to support rescue operations as Kohler and Towner located a dazed woman, trapped in a back bedroom.
With no way out but the bedroom window, they radioed for a ladder as they prepared to evacuate. Kohler hooked to the sill and rolled out. Towner assisted the woman, lowering her out the window into Kohler’s lap. As the team dangled on ropes, they shielded the woman as flames erupted above their heads. Operator Brian assisted the woman down the ladder to be transported to the hospital. Despite extensive burns to her back, arms and head, she would recover. With the support of additional engine companies, the fire was knocked down in less than half an hour.
“This was an extremely high-risk incident where quick thinking, extensive training, and experience with bail-out equipment paid off,” emphasizes Chief Fred Charlton of Clackamas Fire District #1. “In this incident, we took 20 years of training our firefighters for self-rescue and turned it into saving a civilian in imminent danger. What could have been a tragic day became a story of success.”
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