At the FDIC Opening Ceremonies in Indianapolis this morning, Chicago (IL) Firefighter Larry McCormack was awarded the 2012 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award for his conspicuous bravery in saving the life of fellow Chicago Firefighter Gerald Carter.
The Courage and Valor Award is named in honor of the the life and legacy of FDNY Chief Ray Downey, who lost his life in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City.
“Firefighter McCormack’s actions reflect on the fire service’s true values,” said PennWell CEO Robert Biolchini as he presented the award alongside FDNY Battalion Chiefs Joe Downey and Chuck Downey, Ray’s Downey sons. “So today we recognize him individually but, in a greater sense, his actions are a mirror of the outstanding actions all of you are facing and performing each day when you are called.”
On August 25, 2011, at 1845 hours, Chicago Fire Department’s Squad 5 responded to a still alarm for the occupied residence at 7032 South Justine. While the squad was en route to the fire, the alarm was escalated to a “still and box” because of reports of heavy fire on the second floor.
On their arrival, the members of Squad 5 reported to their assigned area to complete their assigned tasks. Firefighter McCormack was assigned to the rear of the fire building. He proceeded to the rear of the structure, where he found the door open and firefighters conducting a primary search of the first floor.
Knowing that there were enough personnel on the first floor to complete the primary search, Firefighter McCormack proceeded to the second floor by way of a 35-foot extension ladder raised by Truck 41 to the gable end. Once on the rear porch roof, Firefighter McCormack removed the plywood covering the rear window to provide a means of ingress for a vent-enter-and search of the rear bedroom. When he completed the search, he went through the door and joined with members of Squad 5 and Truck 20 to assist with the primary search of the second floor heading toward Sector 1.
At about this time, members were ordered to vacate the second floor because of rapidly deteriorating conditions. As members were headed toward the stairs to exit, conditions in the attic changed drastically. A rapid rise of heat and a large increase in the volume of fire made the area untenable. Members in the attic were forced to make a hasty retreat down the stairs.
During this time Captain Tom Ruane and Firefighter Gerald Carter of Engine Company 54 held their position with the hoseline to protect the other members as they quickly exited the second-floor attic. Suddenly, a large volume of fire broke out of the knee wall behind Captain Ruane and Firefighter Carter, who were 10 feet away from the stairway. In an effort to get to the stairs, Captain Ruane led Firefighter Carter out. Because of the extreme volume of fire and zero visibility, Firefighter Carter lost the handline and became disoriented and lost.
Captain Ruane returned to the area and attempted to find Firefighter Carter but was unable to locate him. Exhausted, Captain Ruane fell into the stairs, knowing he could gain assistance from the crew below. Members of Squad 5 and truck 20 helped Captain Ruane down the stairs. As they were exiting, Captain Ruane was screaming that Firefighter Carter was trapped in the fire on the second floor.
Firefighter McCormack had just exited the attic area. When he heard that Firefighter Carter was trapped in the thick, acrid smoke and intense heat, he immediately reentered the inferno that was now the attic area in an attempt to locate and assist his brother firefighter. He entered into the searing heat and heavy flames without the protection of a hoseline.
Keeping his composure in the unbearable conditions, Firefighter McCormack “keyed in” on the piercing shriek of Firefighter Carter’s activated PASS alarm. It led him to Firefighter Carter, who was unconscious, lying still, and barely breathing. The intense heat had melted the netting to his head, causing his face piece to become dislodged.
Firefighter McCormack then single-handedly dragged Firefighter Carter to the landing and onto the stairs, where he was assisted in carrying Firefighter Carter down the remaining stairs. Firefighter Carter, who had suffered burns, was revived by paramedics and transported to the hospital.
During the entire time Firefighter McCormack was rescuing Firefighter Carter, the hoseline was open and unattended. Scalding water rained down on Firefighters McCormack and Carter. He is recovering from his injuries and will be returning to duty shortly.
Later that same day, Firefighter McCormack responded to an early morning fire in a heavily involved structure. He and another member of Squad Company 5 rescued a handicapped civilian.
“These rescues are a testament of the Duty-Pride-Tradition code exemplified by Firefighter McCormack,” Chuck Downey said. “His courage and ‘super human’ efforts were in accord with the highest traditions of the Chicago Fire Department and the fire service.”
Larry is a 16-year veteran of the fire service. He began his career in the fire service as a volunteer with the Worth Fire Department. In 1996, Larry became a full-time paid firefighter with the Oaklawn Fire Department, where he worked until 2004. In 2004, Larry became a member of the Fire Department of New York and was assigned to Ladder 26 in the Bronx, the FDNY’s busiest and most decorated truck company. In 2006, Larry left New York and became a member of the Chicago Fire Department, where he was assigned to hook and ladder number 20. In 2007, Larry was assigned to Squad Company 5, the busiest heavy rescue company in the city of Chicago.
During Larry’s career, he has received several prestigious awards, including six Chicago fire Commissioner unit citations. He was honored twice by the Mayor and the City Council in the form of resolutions including the actions he took in the rescue of an unconscious handicapped civilian from a basement fire on the same day as the rescue of firefighter Carter. Larry was also the recipient of the academic achievement award and the valedictorian of his Chicago Fire Department Academy class and voted by his fellow students for the Eugene Blackmon award for leadership.
Firefighter McCormack has been married to his lovely wife Jill for 10 years and has two beautiful daughters Madilyn, age three, and Kirsten, age one.
For his extraordinary courage and valor, PennWell and Fire Engineering presented McCormack with the 2012 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Medal Award, along with a $35,000 check from the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation.