Medal Day is Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's (MDFR) way of recognizing the meritorious efforts of the men and women who perform above and beyond the call of duty in a job that requires unparalleled bravery every day. On Saturday, March 24, 2012, MDFR honored recipients of the Employee Valor and Excellence Awards. The eleventh annual Medal Day Ceremony took place at MDFR's Training Center, 9300 NW 41 Street, in Doral.
From L-R: FF Frank Garcia, Lt. Antonio Lima,
Lt. Dorian Torres, and FF Julio Puentes posing with Rosie Lake, the woman they saved.
From L-R: Fire Chief William W. Bryson, Retired Captain Thomas Quinn, and Firefighter Scott Walker who received the award for his heroic act of risking his own life to save a man stuck in a septic tank.
Engine 35 was one of the award recipients and Rosie Lake, the woman they saved, was in attendance. On July 23th 2009, at 10:52 a.m., she was seriously injured during a traffic accident at NW 36 Street and South Drive in Miami Springs. Miami-Dade School Board Sergeant J. Ramirez was the first to arrive and requested fire rescue. Battalion Chief Phil DiMaria arrived first and advised there was a critically injured patient trapped inside the vehicle. The crew of Engine 35 arrived and began the complicated extrication to free the patient. Upon evaluation, they found the patient conscious but not responding verbally due to head trauma. Arriving shortly after, Rescue 35 aided the Engine's crew and prepared to receive the female patient. She was loaded on the rescue with a backboard that allowed paramedics to fully immobilize her spine while being treated en route to the hospital. "Every time I see engine and rescue 35 go by my house with their sirens I give them my blessing and say: God, put your wings underneath this car and take them to save another life like they saved my life," said Ms. Lake. (Listen to audio clip attached)
More than 100 firefighters were recognized in seven different categories, with the highest being the Gold Medal of Valor. This is the highest honor awarded to MDFR sworn personnel for performing in the presence of personal danger and going above and beyond the ordinary call of duty. It is given for an act exemplifying bravery, gallantry, or courage in the furtherance of saving lives and/or protecting property and the fire firefighters that risked their lives during March 23, 2011's jet fuel farm fire at Miami International Airport were the recipients of this award.
MDFR units from the Airport Division and from surrounding battalions responded to the call at the airport's Tank Farm. Upon arrival, airport units, including foam trucks, were faced with a flowing fuel fire in an unprotected area. These initial units had to take up attack positions from both the east and west sides of the tank farm. The foam trucks were approximately 50 feet from the origin of the fire and remained in those positions for more than 2 hours, using more than 10,000 gallons of finished foam. Other units from the airport provided water sources for the foam trucks and deployed jump lines to cool nearby storage containers.
The fire was quickly changed to a second alarm and neighboring units arrived. They worked at a high level of intensity and at times were exposed to extreme heat conditions and explosions for up to two and a half hours. Units on scene rapidly adapted in order to complete multiple and changing tasks such as cutting fences, laying multiple five-inch supply lines, and deploying multiple master streams and multiple foam hand lines. In the face of real danger and prolonged work times, these units performed exceptionally well.
MDFR's extremely aggressive attack prevented fuel storage tank failures as well as damage to the inbound fuel filtration system from Port Everglades. In addition, the units saved the airlines and tourism industries hundreds of millions of dollars.
Five months later, October 16, 2011 at 12:27 p.m., a 911 call was received stating that a man was possibly stuck in a septic tank in north Miami-Dade County. A confined space assignment was dispatched, which dispatches the closest units and the Technical Rescue units to assist the victim. The septic tank would be treated as a confined space rescue that requires additional equipment due to the possibility of a hazardous environment present that may not allow for the substantiating life due to decreased oxygen levels.
Once units arrived, Firefighter Scott Walker, a Technical Rescue Technician, was tasked as the entry person to help rescue the patient. The entry hole was too small to allow for Firefighter Walker to enter wearing his self-contained breathing apparatus, also known as a SCBA. He removed his SCBA and his crew held it above the hole. Firefighter Walker could not look down into the septic tank with the SCBA above his head. He had to perform arduous tasks by the sense of touch only. The patient's legs were entangled in the ladder that he had used to enter the septic tank. Firefighter Walker had to disentangle the patient's legs, place the patient into a harness that would allow him to be removed from the tank, and then assisted the crew above to remove the patient from the septic tank. Firefighter Walker, while at great risk, managed to improvise and adapt to incredible conditions to accomplish the removal of the victim from a nearly impossible situation. For performing acts of outstanding achievement of departmental goals and objectives, exemplifying devotion to duty in the furtherance of the fire rescue profession, and serving the community above and beyond the ordinary call of duty Firefighter Scott Walker is receiving the Thomas Quinn Exceptional Service Award. Thomas Quinn, who was one of the original creators of the Board of Merit's Medal Award Ceremony, was in attendance.
The award recipients, their family members, elected officials, local police and fire chiefs from the entire South Florida witnessed this very special award ceremony. The event was modeled in the rich tradition of FDNY's award ceremonies.
From L-R: County Commissioner Sally A. Heyman, County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Deputy Mayor Genaro "Chip" Iglesias, Local 1403 President Captain Rowan Taylor, MDFR's Fire Chief William Bryson (Center), Chief David Downey, Chief Fernando Fernandez, Assistant Director Scott Mendelsberg, Assistant Director Curt Sommerhoff, Senior Legal Advisor, Flora Seff, and Retired Fire Captain Thomas Quinn with all of the award recipients from the March 2011's jet fuel farm fire at Miami International Airport