Fire EMS, Firefighting

Off-Duty KS Firefighter Rescues Family on Boat

An off-duty firefighter rescued a man who was struggling to swim to shore at Lake Shawnee in Topeka, Kansas, and then brought his family to safety.

Firefighter Dan Lawton of the Fort Riley (KS) Fire Department was fishing around 9 p.m. on June 25 when he decided to check on a drifting boat since winds were escalating, according to a report from WIBW news ( As he got closer Lawton realized the boat was carrying two adults and three small children and was enduring strong currents.

When Lawton reached the boat, the man on board, later identified as Robert Dabney, stood up and subsequently fell into the lake. Lawton asked Dabney if he could swim to shore, and, at Dabney’s confirmation, Lawton tied the family’s boat to his kayak to bring them to safety.

As Lawton was heading in, he noticed Dabney was having trouble staying above water. Lawton turned the boat around and reached Dabney as his head was nearly underwater. Lawton gave Dabney a life jacket so he could rest on the kayak’s edge as Lawton paddled to shore.

Once Lawton and the family arrived on shore, paramedics inspected Dabney and released him. No one was injured during the rescue.

Shawnee County Parks Police Chief Mike Cope says he plans to nominate Lawton for the community’s “Champion of Character Award.”

Read more on this rescue at

In addition the everyday heroism they demonstrate on the fireground, it is not uncommon for firefighters to jump into action when they are off-duty, as well. For more stories of off-duty rescues, see Off-Duty Washington Firefighter Recounts River Rescue, Off-Duty Firefighter Helps People Escape Burning OR Home, and Off-Duty Firefighters Rescue Man Trapped in Mud in FL.