Yesterday the Sacramento Fire Department held its Annual Awards Ceremony. Every year the Fire Department honors Sacramento Firefighters and citizens from the community for acts of heroism and bravery and for community service. The ceremony is usually held at the California Firefighters Memorial site at the State Capitol, but due to the weather, we moved it indoors to the Atrium at the Fire & Police Headquarters Building.
The event was well attended and Natalie Bomke from FOX 40 was our Mistress of Ceremonies. Mayor Kevin Johnson spoke at the opening of the ceremony and credited Sacramento’s Firefighters for doing much more than just fighting fires. He spoke on how we are a part of the community and that as a young man growing up in Oak Park, he knew of the Firefighters at Station 6 and how busy they are and what they did for his community.
Many were honored yesterday, but I am going to highlight four of the awards. Two Kaiser Permanente Physicians were on duty at Kaiser South Hospital on December 9, 2008 when three family members were admitted for flu like symptoms. The Doctors and their staff quickly realized that these patients were showing signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
They quickly contacted us, because they knew there were more family members at home. We responded and found two more family members that had the same symptoms. Both of these patients were transported to the hospital and it was confirmed that all of the family had Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
The levels of Carbon Monoxide were so high in the home, that we believe if we would not have responded and taken these two young family members out of the home, they would have most likely not survived the night. Because of their actions, the two Doctors were awarded our Outstanding Service Award.
On May 1, 2008 a fire broke out in the home of Jessica Lazaro. The family was outside, having a barbeque for Jessica’s younger sisters’ birthday when a fire broke out in the kitchen. Jessica quickly realized that her young sister was missing and probably still inside the home.
Jessica ran through the heat and thick smoke of the kitchen to find her sister in a back bedroom, scared and frightened, refusing to leave the safety of her bedroom. After a brief struggle with her sister, Jessica soon realized that their exit route was now cut of by the rapidly advancing heat and smoke. They were both trapped, but remaining calm; Jessica broke out the bedroom window and passed her sister out the window to the family members outside.
Because of her actions, Jessica was awarded the Sacramento Fire Department’s highest civilian award, the Commendation of Valor.
On January 5, 2008 Firefighter Tilden Billiter was working his shift at Truck 10 when they received a call for a structure fire. Truck 10 arrived and found heavy fire from one side of the home. Neighbors reported that the occupant, an elderly female was trapped inside.
Firefighter Billiter reacted and went through the garage door without the protection of a fire hose. He tried to enter the door from the garage into the house, when he realized there was something on the inside, up against the door, preventing him from opening it. He quickly removed the doors hinges and opened the door where he found the elderly victim, slumped over. She had collapsed against the door.
With the fire and smoke now spreading into the kitchen, Firefighter Billiter removed the unconscious victim to safety where she was transported to a local hospital. Because of his actions, Firefighter Billiter received the Sacramento Fire Department’s third highest award, the Medal of Superior Effort.
On November 11, 2008, Firefighter Debbie Mart was working her shift at Engine 19. A call came in for an auto accident on the Capital City Freeway near Cal Expo. When Engine 19 arrived, they found one car on its side, with heavy fire coming from the rear of the car and its gas tank. The driver, a young female, was trapped inside and the fire was moving dangerously close to her.
Firefighter Mart, acting under the direction of her Captain, entered the car and got between the fire and the driver. She protected the driver and stabilized her until other Firefighters were able to control the fire and extricate the victim from the car.
Because of her actions, Firefighter Mart was awarded the Sacramento Fire Departments second highest award, the Medal of Merit.
With the exception of moving the location of the ceremony at the last minute because of the weather, the ceremony went well. Fire Chief Ray Jones presented all of the recipients with their awards and all recipients received a Resolution from the California State Senate.
This ceremony demonstrates that it takes everyone in a community to come together during times of crisis. There were many acts of selflessness and community service demonstrated by both civilians and Firefighters. The members of the Sacramento Fire Department appreciate the help and support we receive by the Citizens of Sacramento, especially at the scenes of emergencies.