The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award, presented by the Fire Engineering Courage and Valor Foundation, commemorates the life and career achievements of Deputy Chief Ray Downey, chief of rescue operations and 39-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Meet this year’s nominees for the award, which is presented annually at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lieutenant James Collins, Cherry Hill (NJ) Fire Department. He has been a member of the fire service for 16 years and of the Cherry Hill Fire Department since 1994.
Comment: “Lt. Collins’ selfless acts of conducting a search in such conditions and continuing after finding and removing the occupant exemplify the best of tour jobs.” Battalion Chief Richard W. Harris, Cherry Hill (NJ) Fire Department.
On November 11, 2009, at 0200 hours, Ladder Co. 4 was part of the initial assignment for a building fire in the Woods II section of Cherry Hill. The alarm room informed the responding units of numerous reports of fire with trapped occupants. Ladder 4 was the first company to arrive. Collins confirmed the reports and requested an “All Hands” be transmitted.
A male occupant told Collins, “They’re still inside.” Collins and Firefighter Edward Micua entered the fire apartment to conduct a primary search. Collins located an elderly unconscious female and moved her to Micua, who was directed to remove her from the building. Collins continued to search for two children reported to be in the apartment (they later were found with their parents in another building). Collins continued until structural failure forced him to abandon the search. The remainder of the assignment went to work, and the incident was under control in 28 minutes.
The occupant who spoke to Collins and the female removed from the fire building were transported to the burn unit in Temple Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they remained for 10 days.
Ladder Co. 4 operated alone for four minutes. The search and removal were conducted in severe conditions, which were rapidly deteriorating.
MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.