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.
Firefighter Jason Roberts, Pampa (TX) Fire Department. He has been a member of the fire service for one year and seven months.
Comment: “Firefighter Jason Robert’s efforts on that day are in keeping with the highest traditions of the fir service. His actions of stripping off outer layers of clothing to prepare to dive into a lake he knew could probably claim him as well showed true valor and bravery for someone of such short duration ‘on the job.’ ” Captain Jerry Tomaschik, Pampa (TX) Fire Department.
On February 6, 2009, at a dispatch time of 1803 hours, the fire department arrived to find a three-year-old boy floating lifelessly facedown in the water. He had been there for about 10 minutes prior to the fire department’s arrival. The boy was about 50 yards off shore at the City Lake in Recreation Park. It was unseasonably warm for February; the temperature was in the 70s. The wind was blowing between 15 to 25 miles per hour. Prior to the arrival of the fire department, a Pampa police officer and a family member had already attempted to rescue the boy, but were unsuccessful, since the average water temperature of other area lakes were later reported to have been approximately 38°F. Roberts, without regard for his personal safety, attempted to swim the 50 yards to the child. However, the frigid temperature of the water forced him to return to shore. Firefighters on-scene decided to use a backboard from EMS as a flotation device and a rope from Engine 1 as a safety line.
Roberts quickly volunteered to make a second trip into the numbing cold water. He assured Fire Chief Kim Powell that he was a strong swimmer and was ready for the second attempt. He laid the backboard on the water out in front of him and began the painful swim once again. With encouragement from everyone on shore and fire department personnel attentively managing the slack on the safety line, Roberts reached the boy. He immediately lifted the child up and out of the water and turned him faceup. He quickly secured the boy between his body and the flotation device, and yelled to the shore, “I got him.” The team on the shore quickly pulled Roberts and the child to shore. Roberts handed what seemed to be the lifeless body over to the paramedic, and EMS personnel began heroic efforts to try to revive the boy. The child was then transported to a Lifestar aircraft was airlifted 66 miles to Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo, Texas.
The boy, now four years old, is at home under the care of his family and is making some strides in his recovery.
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.