At today’s Opening Session, Firefighter James Lee Jr., of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), was awarded the 2017 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award. Robert Biolchini, chairman of the board, PennWell Corp., and the initiator of the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Foundation, presented the award. Also on stage during the presentation were Selection Committee members FDNY Battalion Chiefs Joe and Chuck Downey, sons of Ray Downey; Chief Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation; Chief Ron Kanterman, National Fire Academy Alumni Association; several members of the FDNY’s Rescue 1 and FDNY Pipes and Drums; and Bobby Halton, Fire Engineering editor in chief / FDIC education director.
Lee, a 13-year member of FDNY, was cited for rescuing in an early-morning, six-alarm fire 81-year-old Jim Duffy, the occupant of the top-floor apartment of a five-story Old Law tenement that had fire on every floor. Since the building had no rear fire escape, Lee was lowered on a life-saving rope over the rear edge of the building to the window of the fifth floor to make the rescue in blacked-out conditions and high heat. The rope caught fire while Lee and Duffy was being lowered; it fell apart as they reached the ground. A man on the third floor died, and three other civilians and 11 firefighters suffered minor injuries in the fire. The fire began on the first floor, blocking residents from escaping through the front door. The audience viewed the Lee rescue story on video.
Joe Downey thanked Mr. Biolchini for “memorializing the legacy of his father with the Award, presented in the memories of the FDNY firefighters lost on 9/11. Chuck Downey noted: “This award would brighten our Dad’s face, for it simultaneously recognizes the courage and valor of an individual and the courage and valor of our beloved department. Today we celebrate the success of training, courage, teamwork, and the importance of everyone performing their function on the fireground, supporting the mission of the team to the very best of their abilities.”
Halton cited Lee for “exemplifying the highest traditions of the fire service.” Mr. Biolchini presented Lee on behalf of PennWell and Fire Engineering with the 2017 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award and medal, along with a $35,000 check from the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation.
In addition to Lee, nominees for the 2017 Courage and Valor award included the following: FF. Jamie Brock, Townville Volunteer Fire Department, Seneca, SC; Capt. Derek Brown, FFs. Troy Purdy, Shane Farmer, and Todd Taylor, Cedar Falls (IA) Fire Rescue; FF/Paramedic David Dame, West Metro Fire Rescue, Lakewood, CO; Lt. Jerry W. Fickes, Wilmington (DE) Fire Department; Engineer Steven Gunn, Peoria (AZ) Fire-Medical; Deputy Sheriff/Field Training Instructor Thomas Junkin, Charleston, SC; Acting T. (former assistant chief) Stan Landry, Vernon (CT) Fire Department; FF. Danny Lovato, Washington, DC, Fire Department; FF. Oliver McDonagh, Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department; Lt. Robert Meuser, Fire Department of New York; FF./Deputy Fire Chief Steven Edward Price, Hamlin (PA) Fire & Rescue Company; Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware, Prince George’s County, MD.