PennWell Corporation presented Captain Eric J. Hankins, Yuba City (CA) Fire Department, with the 2010 Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award during this year’s Opening Ceremony of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) held at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, April 19-24, 2010.
The Vice President of the Fraternal Order Of Leatherheads Society, Eric J. Hankins received the 2010 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award for his heroic actions that saved the lives of two young children last year.
In January 2009, Capt. Hankins’ singlehandedly saved two children from a burning home while off duty. The children, both toddlers, were in the home alone when the fire broke out. Hankins noticed the smoke and flames as he was driving by, and immediately returned to help. He encountered their frantic mother in the street, who was screaming for someone to save her children.
Despite heavy smoke and increasingly deteriorating conditions, without personal protective equipment and at risk to his own life, Hankins entered the home and successfully located a child, whom he pulled to safety. At that point he learned there was another child still inside, so he once again entered the burning structure and made the second rescue. Once the children were turned over to ambulance crews, he returned to help battle the fire, and only after it was extinguished did he seek medical attention for himself. For his actions, Capt. Hankins was also awarded the California State Firefighters Association Medal of Valor.
A standing-room only crowd was on hand as Captain Hankins was presented the award.
“This morning, we gather to honor a true American hero, Yuba City Fire Department Captain Eric Hankins. Captain Hankin’s remarkable act of bravery under life-threatening conditions resulted in saving the lives of two young children whom, without his intervention, would have succumbed to a tragic fate,” said PennWell Corporation’s President and CEO Robert F. Biolchini.
“Captain Hankins actions reflect on the fire service’s true values. So today we recognize him individually but, in a greater sense, his actions are a mirror of the outstanding actions that firefighters perform each day,” Biolchini continued.
The Courage & Valor Foundation, created by PennWell Corporation to ensure that the world forever remembers the sacrifices made by heroic FDNY members on September 11, 2001, annually presents the Ray Downey Courage & Valor Award at FDIC. The award is a medal as well as a check for $35,000. FDIC, owned and produced by PennWell, is the world’s largest annual fire rescue conference and exhibition, bringing together nearly 30,000 fire service professionals from around the world each year.
In the spirit of the heroism displayed on September 11, this award recognizes extraordinarily courageous American firefighters each year. The award is named in honor of Deputy Chief Ray Downey, who as part of FEMA’s US&R program, helped Governor Frank Keating after the Murrah Building Bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, and who was chief of rescue operations and 39-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York. Downey lost his life when he elected to remain in the World Trade Center to save others on September 11. He was the most highly decorated firefighter in the history of New York.