Meet the 2014 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award Nominees

The following candidates have been nominated for the 2014 Ray Downey Courage and Valor award. The presentation of the award to the winning nominee will be made on Wednesday, April 9, at the Opening Ceremony (8:00 a.m.-10 a.m.) of the 2014 Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis. The candidates, listed by their fire departments in alphabetical order, are as follows.


Firefighter Quanté Singleton

He has been a member of the department for eight years.

Sergeant Michael J. O’Toole

He has been a member of the department for 19 years.

FF. Singleton and Sgt. O’Toole were assigned to Truck 16 (T-16) on March 22, 2013, when Company 16 was dispatched to a nearby residence for a possible structure fire. They arrived within two minutes and confirmed a working incident with heavy smoke visible from the front of the building.

Without the cover of a handline, FF. Singleton and Sgt. O’Toole entered the home, which had a significant amount of fire visible. They located the bulk of the fire in the kitchen area. They performed a primary search and located a disoriented, elderly female in her bedroom. They removed her from the home. She was transported to the hospital; she made a full recovery.


Acting Captain Steve Zimmerman

He has been a member of the department for 16 years.

Engineer Lance Benedict

He has been a member of the department for 17 years.

Engineer/Firefighter Steve Petrovics

He has been a member of the department for16 years.

On April 17, 2013, at 1900 hours, Bloomington Fire Department responded to a structure fire. The shift commander was first on the scene and found a working fire in a tri-level residence. Fire was engulfing the AD portion of the house. A 20-mile-per-hour wind was blowing to the unburned portion of the house. The incident commander received a report of someone being inside the house. He ordered the Engine (E) 1 company to ladder up the A side and search the upper rooms. The wind was blowing the fire at the firefighters. E-1 with Capt. Zimmerman and Engineers Benedict and Petrovics, without hesitation, entered the upper level of heat and zero visibility to conduct a search. After completing the primary search of the first bedroom and the second back bedroom and reporting the results to the command post, they headed to the hallway bathroom. Capt. Zimmerman reported to Command they had located the victim behind the bathroom door. They brought her down the interior stairs. E-5 was on scene protecting the stairway. The victim was transferred to EMS and transported. She survived.


Firefighter/Engineer Michael J. Wanklin

He has served four years as a junior and three years as a full-time member.

Firefighter/Engineer Michael D’Amato

He has been a member for three years.

Firefighter/EMT Jason Hammaker

He has served four years as a junior and three years as a full-time member.

Firefighter/EMT Edward Ball Jr.

He has served four years as a junior and five years as a full-time member.

Captain Christopher Neuberger

He has been a member for 10 years.

Firefighter/Engineer Steven Shattls

He has been a member for 10 years.

On February 26, 2013, Bloomingdale Fire Department firefighters executed a double ice rescue on Lake Iosco in the borough. Two ice fishermen fell through the ice just before noon. Firefighters received a 911 call at 1209 hours. First-due Ladder 664 and second-due Squad 663 had two members in ice rescue suits assess the situation. They learned there was a possible second victim.

The incident commander requested a second ice rescue team from the Pompton Lakes Fire Department; two medivac helicopters were also requested.

One victim was found 900 feet from the home of the resident who had reported the incident. FF Wanklin’s initial assessment was that the victim was suffering from hypothermia and was about to go under the water. He and FF D’Amato got in the water with the victim and kept him from going under until Capt. Nueberger and FF. Hammaker and FF. Ball arrived with the ice rescue kayak.

The victim was packaged in the kayak. He then confirmed that there was a second victim. At about the same time, FF. Hammaker, who was in the water, came in contact with the second victim and brought him to the surface. FF. Shattls joined the crew. The first victim was turned over to Triboro First Aid Squad and hospital paramedics on the shore; the kayak was returned to the rescue site so firefighters could use it to remove the second fisherman. FF. Hammaker performed CPR on the second fisherman as the kayak was being pulled ashore by other members of the Bloomington and Pompton Lakes Fire Departments. The second victim was transported to the hospital, where he died. The first victim was transported by medivac to the hospital trauma center, was treated for severe hypothermia, and was released two days later.


Lieutenant Gregory Pickard

He has been a member of the department since 1981.

Lt. Gregory Pickard was a member of the rapid intervention team (RIT) at a fire in the Knights of Columbus hall in Bryan, Texas, on February 15, 2013. He was standing ready outside with the other two RIT members. The incident commander (IC) directed the team to enter the building to rescue Lt. Eric Wallace, who reported to the IC that he was lost and low on air. At this time, fire conditions inside began to rapidly deteriorate. The roof on two sides of the building started to fail, and the fire broke through violently.

Lt. Pickard unhesitantly led the crew into the hostile environment. They entered the structure without the protection of a hoseline. The RIT team found Lt. Wallace within two minutes about 40 to 50 feet inside the bingo area, which was under very heavy fire conditions. As the RIT team members were moving Lt. Wallace toward the exit, a sustained flashover occurred. The RIT members, fully engulfed by fire and with their protective equipment burning, continued to drag Lt. Wallace out of the building. About 10 feet from the exit, they collapsed from their burn injuries. Other firefighters removed them. Lt. Pickard chose to remain inside the burning structure until the other two members of his team had been removed.

The four firefighters were transported to the hospital trauma unit. Lt. Wallace succumbed to his injuries shortly after arrival at the hospital. Lt. Pickard succumbed later that day. The other two firefighters underwent prolonged treatment and therapy for their injuries and are still recovering.


Firefighter Donald Moorhead

He is a 23-year veteran of the fire service.

On September 2, 2013, at 2033 hours, a structural box assignment was dispatched to an apartment fire. On arrival, fire was showing from the roof and the third-floor apartment. The first-arriving engine forward laid a supply line from a hydrant at the nearest intersection. The crew stretched an attack line. The incident commander arrived at the same time as the engine. A resident advised command a male was trapped inside the burning apartment and gave command the apartment number.

Command advised the engine crew of the person reportedly trapped in that apartment number. FF. Moorhead, as directed by the engine officer, was ahead of the attack line, which had been deployed to another stairway and had to be redirected once the report of a trapped person was received. The line began to ascend the three flights of stairs to access the fire apartment.

FF. Moorhead forced the door of the fire apartment with a halligan bar and entered. The kitchen, living room, and attic space were involved in fire. He crawled to his left down the hallway toward the fire. He made a right into the bedroom and saw the victim’s legs. The victim was unconscious, but he was breathing and had a pulse. FF. Moorhead dragged the victim from the room, out to the hallway. At that time, the hose was making the door. The victim was removed down the hallway under the protection of the flowing hoseline. Four firefighters then carried the victim down three flights of stairs to the front lawn, where he was attended by basic and advanced life support crews.


Lieutenant Michael Gillisie

He has been a member of the department for 17 years.

Firefighter James Norman

He has been a member for 13 years.

On July 19, 2013, Lt. Michael Gillisie and FF. James Norman were assigned on regular duty as part of a four-person crew to Ladder (L) 36. Early in the shift, one of the four firefighters was detailed to the Fire Training Academy for a routine training exercise, leaving the crew to ride with three during this time period. Shortly after the beginning of the shift, L-36 was dispatched to a working fire in a residential structure. The crews operated on the scene of this routine fire and returned to service. While returning to quarters, L-36 was dispatched to a report of a working fire in a 2½-story, single-family home. While en route, the companies received an update from Fire Dispatch advising that a child was reported to be trapped on the second floor.

L-36 was the first company to arrive on scene. Lt. Gillisie provided a size-up report indicating L-36 was on scene of a 2½-story occupied residential structure with a working fire. On dismounting the apparatus, Lt. Gillisie was informed of a report of a child trapped on the second floor. While the driver of the apparatus prepared to deploy the aerial ladder, Lt. Gillisie and FF. Norman proceeded to the rear of the structure without handline protection or backup crews on scene. They entered the structure to initiate search and rescue operations. On ascending the rear stairs, they encountered an adult occupant, who was suffering from burn and smoke inhalation injuries. They removed this victim from the structure.

They reentered the structure by the rear stairs, still without the protection of a handline, to initiate search and rescue operations for the reported missing child. At this time, E-6 arrived on the scene and began to deploy a handline while the apparatus driver ventilated the rear windows.

Lt. Gillisie and FF. Norman began their search pattern toward the rear of the occupancy, where the child was reported trapped. They located the victim and removed the severely injured child from the structure by the rear stairway as the engine crew was entering the structure. The child was transferred to the on-scene EMS crew, who transported him to the hospital.


Firefighter Robert J. Stewart

He has been a member of the department since 2011.

On April 9, 2013, Irmo Fire units responded to an apartment fire with possible entrapment. The arriving units reported a working structure fire. While crews were operating inside, four members became trapped on the second floor.

When FF. Stewart arrived on the second floor of the fire apartment, he found it heavily involved in fire, which had rapidly spread from its seat on the first floor. He observed that conditions in the apartment and the stairwell the interior firefighters had used to reach the second floor were untenable: There was zero visibility, the already untenable temperature was quickly rising, and flashover conditions were imminent.

FF. Stewart led the firefighters to a secondary egress, a second-story window he had laddered before entering the fire structure. Then he noticed that one of the firefighters, a captain, was not among the other firefighters preparing to bail out of the egress window. While maintaining his orientation to the egress point, FF. Stewart shouted for the captain. The captain heard his shouts but could not properly respond because he was disoriented. Realizing this, FF. Stewart took a tool and began tapping the floor to summon the disoriented captain to the egress point. This tactic was successful. The captain joined the other firefighters. All bailed out of the window safely.


Firefighter/EMT Mike Janeckzo

He has been a member of the department for six years.

On January 20, 2013, Squad 2 (Capt. Dye and FF. Kartanowicz) arrived on the scene of a three-story, wood-frame, multifamily structure fire. They reported smoke showing on the top floor. They stretched a 1¾-inch handline into the structure. Interior crews requested additional companies to open up walls and ceilings. While mutual-aid companies were responding for a third alarm, it was discovered that the fire was well advanced in the cockloft. Command ordered all interior units out of the building.

An exterior defensive attack was initiated. Firefighters again entered the structure after all master streams were shut down.

Squad 2 and E-4 stretched a hoseline to the third floor. Conditions were tenable; there was no heat, smoke, or fire. E-1 and E-4 officers entered the apartment on the right. Squad 2’s officer and the hoseline were preparing to enter the apartment on the left with FF. Janeczko. Suddenly, the officers of E-1 and E-4 came out and immediately called for an evacuation.

As the firefighters were hastily evacuating from the top floor, they

experienced a bottleneck in the stairwell. Other firefighters were ascending as they were trying to descend. Squad 2’s Capt. Dye and FF. Kartanowicz were struggling to take out their hoseline. FF. Janeckzo bent down to help them. As he did so, he felt a gust of heat behind him. He then heard FF. Kartanowicz call for help. FF. Janeckzo could not see Capt. Dye, but he knew he was behind FF. Kartanowicz somewhere. Capt. Dye and FF. Kartanowicz were pinned by burning debris from the collapsed roof and ceiling.

According to the incident reports, Capt. Dye’s helmet and mask became dislodged, and only FF Kartanowicz’s face was exposed so that he could not activate his radio or PASS device. He was shouting for help as loudly as he could through his donned face mask. Another firefighter transmitted a Mayday and then extinguished the fire above and in the area of the trapped Capt. Dye and FF. Kartanowicz.

FF. Janeckzo assessed the situation. He then grabbed a “corner” of a large piece of debris that covered Capt. Dye, grabbed the captain’s hand, pulled him out, and directed him to a firefighter, who assisted the captain out of the building.

FF. Janeckzo then went up the steps and spotted FF. Kartanowicz’s boots. He reached into the pile of debris, grabbed the trapped firefighter, who, in turn, grabbed onto FF. Janeckzo, who helped him down to the first floor where other members assisted FF. Kartanowicz out of the burning building.

Capt. Dye, FF. Kartanowicz, and FF. Janeckzo were taken to the hospital. They suffered injuries that required surgery and rehabilitation. They have since returned to full duty.


Captain Chance Cameron Bishop

He has been a member of the Lockhart department for 15 years and is also a part-time firefighter with Bastrop Fire Department.

On October 31, 2013, Bastrop County experienced excessive rain. On that date, the streets were flooded, preventing some people from getting to work or venturing out of their homes. Bastrop County received a call for a water rescue. A young woman had wandered into the water for an unknown reason and became stranded in the rushing water. She was clinging to a wooden fence post.

Capt. Bishop and a fellow firefighter, connected to a safety line, walked into the waters. When they were near the victim, their safety line rope had to be disconnected. The firefighters walked the woman to safety; all were lifted to safety by helicopter.


Firefighter/EMT Chandara (Shawn) Sam

He has been a member of the department for five years.

On August 16, 2013, Marietta Fire Department units responded to a report of a fire in an occupied apartment building. Dispatch advised that callers were reporting flames showing. The first-arriving engine reported heavy fire on the first floor and that within one minute the fire had spread to all three floors and into the attic.

FF. Chandara was assigned to Engine 51, the fourth-arriving engine on scene. Flames were consuming all three floors on the A side of the building, and 20-plus foot fames were through the roof. E-51 was assigned to search the apartments; police told them they could hear someone yelling for help. E-51’s crew located a victim leaning out of a third-floor window from which heavy black smoke was escaping. FF. Chandara and his officer went to the third floor; the other crews were obtaining ground ladders. The fire was moving up the interior stairwell, and a large portion of the ceiling had fallen, revealing extreme fire conditions in the attic.

A crew from Cobb County Fire Department, working in the stairwell, was directed to protect the crew as FF. Chandara and the officer forced the apartment door. They encountered zero visibility conditions and a hostile fire raging above and below them. Using the thermal imaging camera (TIC), they located the victim by the window in a conscious state. Because of the hostile conditions around them, the two firefighters covered the victim’s face with a towel and used their TIC to direct them back to the doorway through which they had entered. FF. Chandara pulled the victim out of the apartment. Crews carried the victim down the stairs to the EMS crew for assessment and treatment. The victim was then transported to the hospital.


Battalion Chief Dan Schiradelly

He has been a member of the department for 18 years.

On April 18, 2013, the Chicago area was devastated by heavy rains and flooding in many river areas; many counties were declared disaster areas. The Owego Fire Protection District was responding on numerous calls to remove citizens from their homes or cars as flood waters continued to rise. At about 1139 hours, Kendall County Communications (KenCom) dispatched Oswego fire units for a water rescue in the southwest section of the district. Reports were that a woman was drowning in a pond near her home. It was later determined that a mother and her son were attempting to clear debris from a drain in their pond; their boat was pulled into the drain by the tremendous suction caused by the flood water. The son was able to free himself. He notified his father of the situation and called 911. The father jumped into the water to attempt to rescue his wife, but he also was pulled and held in the drain. Battalion Chief (BC) Schiradelly, assigned to Squad 6, was the first unit to arrive. He was in water rescue gear. He sized up the situation and entered the frigid water. The woman’s husband was working to keep his wife’s mouth from the rising water.

BC Schiradelly secured the woman and directed additional companies in the rescue. He determined that to safely remove the husband and wife, the boat had to be pulled clear of the siphon, which was holding all three in place. BC Schiradelly determined that the effort must be coordinated since once the boat was pulled clear, nothing would be there to stop the husband and wife from being pulled farther into the 150-foot pipe. After safety lines were placed on all victims and rescuers, BC Schiradelly stayed with victims. At approximately 1200 hours, the victims were removed from the water and transported to an area hospital. The husband was treated and released. The wife, who had hypothermia and injuries, had an extended stay in the hospital.


Captain Joshuay J. McWhorter

He became a volunteer firefighter in 1993 at the age of 16, became eligible to serve as a part-time firefighter in 1994, and achieved fulltime status in June 2000.

Firefighter Chris Welch

He has been a member of the department for 14 years.

On Thursday, July 25, 2013, Lt. McWhorter and FF. Welch of the Bloomington Fire Department were en route from Station 21 to Station 11 following a detail for a possible structure fire. The run stated the stove was on fire in the kitchen and the occupant could not escape.

When the call was received, Capt. McWhorter and FF. Welch were within a few minutes of the house. After arriving on scene and donning their full personal protective equipment, they made a conscious decision to find the occupant before the responding engines arrived. They entered the front door and found their way to the second floor, where the kitchen was located. The found a semiconscious occupant several feet from the back door in the room next to the kitchen and removed him from the home through the back door leading to the porch. By this time, the first engine arrived. Capt. McWhorter advised the incoming personnel that he needed the oxygen duffle to administer aid to the resident. He and FF. Welch extinguished the fire, which had spread throughout the kitchen and flooring, with cooking pots they filled with water from the sink.


Firefighter/Paramedic Kacie E. Hayter

He has been a member of the department for three years.

On February 29, 2013, FF. Hayter was on board the unit that was dispatched to a private home for the report of a female in labor. While conducting a rapid assessment of the patient’s condition, she observed the umbilical cord was presenting without any sign of approaching birth. The cord was bluish in color, clearly indicating no transfer of blood from the mother to the baby. FF. Hayter used her hand to reduce pressure on the umbilical cord. With her hand in place, the cord became pink, and she could feel a pulse. She could not remove her hand until she was directed to do so by a physician.

While en route to the hospital, the responders contacted the hospital staff, briefed them on the severity of the situation, and asked them to prepare a delivery room. Immediately on arriving at the hospital, the patient was assessed and taken to Labor and Delivery without dely. The physician determined that FF. Hayter’s hand had to remain in place to keep pressure off the umbilical cord until the baby was delivered. She accompanied the patient in the delivery room, where an emergency Cesarean Section was performed. A healthy baby girl was delivered at 36 weeks gestation. She remained in the hospital one week and then was discharged into the care of her parents.


Assistant Chief Thomas A. Siragusa

He has been a member of the department for 36 years.

On August 17, 2013, the rim fire that ignited in the Stanislaus National Forest and burned into the northwest sector of Yosemite National Park ultimately became the third largest wildfire in California’s history. Chief Siragusa was deployed to the Rim Fire response efforts subsequent to the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s request to Chief Joanne Hayes-White for the fire department’s technical assistance and support. Chief Siragusa served as the city’s liaison with the Unified Incident Command to ensure the city’s interests were properly communicated. He was the eyes and ears on the ground, providing the most up-to-date, accurate information to the Moccasin Emergency Operations Center and the San Francisco Department Operations Center regarding the status of the fire and its threat to the city’s facilities. His leadership, management skills, and techniques demonstrated his commitment to the city and the county of San Francisco and to the mission of the San Francisco Fire Department.


Firefighter/EMT Erik Allen

He has been a career firefighter for five years and a volunteer firefighter for seven years.

On November 20, 2013, Shelby Fire & Rescue Stations 1, 2, and 3 were dispatched to a working residential structure fire with a confirmed four-year-old still inside. En route, firefighters inquired where the child was thought to be located. They were told that the child’s bedroom was in the rear of the structure. The dispatcher said that Shelby Police were on scene and said the rear of the house was fully involved.

On arrival, heavy fire and smoke were across the C side of the structure. The ladder company had to park two driveways up the street behind the engine. A three-person search team, including FF. Allen, was formed. The three firefighters had to cut across two yards to reach the house. They became blocked by a chain link fence about five feet tall. The firefighters were about 20 feet from the burning structure. Going down and around the fence would easily have taken at least a minute. FF. Allen decided to “shoulder” the fence about three-quarters the way up to bend it over so the firefighters could pass.

After scaling the chain link fence with their gear and tools, the three firefighters met family member who were yelling hysterically and facing a structure with full involvement on the D side. There was no charged line in place. An uncharged line was coming off the truck into the driveway.

FF. Allen forced the fire-engulfed door and headed into the fire. The other firefighters followed. The team had a thermal imaging camera (TIC); temperatures were reading 800 degrees on the TIC. Visibility was nearly zero. A large amount of fire was behind the firefighters, to the right of them, and directly in front of them down the hall. The firefighters began to feel the intense heat through their protective equipment. FF. Allen shouted, “I’m going down the hall.” Within seconds, he yelled,” I found him. I found him.” FF. Allen picked up the unresponsive child and ran as fast as he could to get him out of the hot environment. He didn’t realize a full-plated glass door had shut behind the firefighters on the way in. He ran straight through the door, shattering it. He kept running, down the driveway and into the road, jumping over charged lines and dodging emergency personnel until he found the awaiting paramedics. The child was intubated; he was unresponsive and guppy breathing. What seemed like an eternity happened in less than one minute, 15 seconds. The child was alive and was flown to Charlotte for treatment for airway burns.


Firefighter Joseph Hofstetter

He has been a volunteer firefighter with the West Webster (NY) Fire District for 10 years and is a career firefighter with the Rochester (NY) Fire Department.

FF. Joseph Hofstetter arrived on the scene of a reported vehicle fire that was in close proximity to a structure. He responded in his personal vehicle. West Webster Fire District’s E-125 and Squad 1297, driven by FF Tomasz Kaczowka, arrived at about the same time. E-125, driven by Past Chief Michael Chiapperini and with FF. Ted Scardino in the officer’s seat, gave the initial report. Immediately, E-125 was fired on by an unknown shooter waiting on a dirt berm alongside the Lake Ontario shoreline. The shooter used a high-powered semiautomatic weapon. Chief Chiapperini and FF. Scardino were fatally wounded. FF. Hofstetter was wounded in the lower back and legs.

In the minutes immediately following the initial gunfire attack, FF. Hofstetter relayed pertinent information to the incident commander (IC), who alerted all other responding units from West Webster and Sea Breeze to stage in their locations. FF. Hofstetter also reported that the vehicle fire had spread to the structure at 191 Lake Road. By relaying this information to the IC, FF. Hofstetter was instrumental in saving the lives of the personnel scheduled to respond after his unit.

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