5 Ohio firefighters receive valor award

Firefighters were recognized for their daring rescue during a vicious house fire that left one dead and several others injured

By Ryan Dunn
The Blade

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — For Ed Rheinbolt, the five honored Toledo firefighters were heroic long before they saved his son.

“They should get an award for doing their jobs every day,” Mr. Rheinbolt said. “People don’t really realize what they do, and I’m unlucky enough to know.”

Toledo firefighters pose with Michael Rheinbolt, who they rescued last year, and his mother. (Photo/ Toledo Fire & Rescue)
Toledo firefighters pose with Michael Rheinbolt, who they rescued last year, and his mother. (Photo/ Toledo Fire & Rescue)

The Toledo Fire and Rescue Department responded to a large house fire in the early-morning hours of May 2, 2015, at 253 Willard St. The fire killed Joseph Fazenbaker, 14, and badly injured his stepbrother, Michael Rheinbolt, now 14.

Flames were visible from above the treetops. While attempting to rescue the two brothers, the firefighters worked themselves to exhaustion. Two were seriously injured, according to a press release from the Ohio Department of Commerce.

More than a year later, Michael presented the Ohio Fire Service Valor Award to five of the responding firefighters during a Wednesday ceremony at the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Capt. Michael Posadny, Lt. Ronald Murd, and Pvts. Mark Krueger, Gary Quinn, and Michael Swartz all received the honor.

Mr. Rheinbolt, 46, of Toledo said he was grateful the firefighters were nominated. He still feels a debt of gratitude to the group.

“If I had a million dollars, I’d give it to them,” he said.

The Valor Award is granted to those who go above and beyond the normal line of duty. They attempt to save a life during an extreme emergency at great personal risk.

The young Rheinbolt said he was so happy they were recognized.

“It’s nice to see the people who saved me and the aftermath of how everything went,” Michael said.

These firefighters were the core group that aggressively searched for victims inside the home, said Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld, department spokesman.

Lieutenant Hertzfeld said the award represents their efforts as well as the larger response to a hostile fire. They were honored Michael could attend and provide the medal.

The fire caused high heat and zero visibility at the home. Firefighters continued to search a home they had never been inside before, Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.

Michael is a freshman on the dean’s list at Toledo Technology Academy. He occasionally visits University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, but has nearly reached a full recovery, Mr. Rheinbolt said.

Investigators said Kassi Brandeberry, 18, of Toledo used gasoline to ignite the Willard Street fire. 

Brandeberry pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of aggravated arson. A judge sentenced her to life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years for the fire.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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