6 Colo. firefighters honored for rescuing 2 children

Gunman and accelerant-fueled fire didn't deter these firefighters from making rescues


DENVER — In February, a domestic disturbance escalated to the point where an armed man barricaded himself and his two children in their home and set it on fire.

With the scene still unsecured, North Metro, Colo., firefighters made entry into the house and rescued both children, the family dog and even the gunman. For that heroic effort they were given this year's International Benjamin Franklin Fire Service Award for Valor at FRI.

Receiving the award were Battalion Chief Timothy Hanlon, Lt. John Maes, and Firefighters Josh Hamilton, Josh Deuto, John Brereton and Mark Maxwell.

"Inside the house, the air is heavily charged and a stairway is engulfed in flames," said Kelly Kirwan, Motorola vice president, who retold the story as he presented the award.

The award is co-sponsored by Motorola and IAFC.

"Accelerants soak the carpet and a large outdoor gas grill is turned on at the bottom of the stairs. Heavy smoke blankets the first floor but Rescue Crew 63 presses on, even though the deranged and armed husband is somewhere inside."

"Inside the smoke-filled duplex, Lt. Maes directs his crew," Kirwan said. "Firefighters Hamilton and Maxwell locate the unconscious husband, who is sprawled in a bedroom, lighter in hand and weapon nearby, and they pull him to safety.

"Firefighter Brereton reaches another bedroom and pulls an unconscious 18-month old child from the heavy smoke and heat. He carries him outside to Battalion Chief Hanlon, serving as the incident commander, who immediately begins CPR, clearing the boy's airway and restoring shallow breathing before the paramedics take over.

"Feeling his way around the walls of the third bedroom curtained in smoke, Lt. Maes discovers an unconscious five-year old child who has suffered significant burns over 60 percent of her body. The crew feverishly tends to her as she is sped to the hospital. Exhausted but undaunted, Maes and Brereton rush back in and rescue the family's large, unconscious dog."

Kirwan said successful rescues like these are rare in such perilous situations. But the firefighters' training, equipment and best practices allowed them to push past the dangers to save lives.

"In the midst of unthinkable situation you acted with unmistakable bravery," Kirwan said. "Your achievement is an inspiration to firefighters around the world."

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