Chief Thomas O’Donohue of the Golden Valley Fire District, located outside Kingman, Ariz., was presented the Benjamin Franklin Award for Valor today during this morning’s general session at Fire-Rescue International conference in Chicago.
Chief O’Donohue was honored with the award, sponsored by Motorola Solutions, for his courage and quick thinking during the rescue of an elderly woman from a burning building.
On Dec. 21, 2012, a 92-year old woman was trapped inside her mobile home in Golden Valley, Ariz. Within two minutes of the dispatch call, Golden Valley Fire District Chief arrived on scene and learned that multiple people were inside the burning building. Chief O’Donohue raced to the back of the structure and discovered that a neighbor had broken a bedroom window, climbed in to assist and was struggled to rescue the elderly woman. The neighbor had pulled the woman to the window, where she was gasping for air. Through the window, a second neighbor and an off-duty Golden Valley fire captain supported the woman’s arms; she was simply too weak to hold herself up.
As flamed threatened the bedroom door, Chief O’Donohue did a quick size-up, weighed the risks and made the critical decision to enter the room.
Dressed only in his turnout gear, Chief O’Donohue tried to enter through the bedroom door, but the intense fire made this impossible. He knew they only had seconds to get them both out, so he broke a second bedroom window on the Bravo side to provide more fresh air to the occupants, returned to the Charlie side and dove headfirst through the bedroom window.
With the room charged and about to flashover, O’Donohue struggled repeatedly to hoist the woman up and out of the very high window. He then told the neighbor, “We’ve got to make this push count!” And with that mighty heave, they lifted the nearly unconscious woman out of the window and into the arms of two men below.
O’Donohue then helped the trapped neighbor exit the building, barely clearing the window himself when the room flashed. Thankfully, everyone was OK.
The chief later noted, “We strongly discourage people from going inside a structure that oftentimes makes for more victims, but without help from these men, that woman would have been dead.”
Kelly Kirwan, corporate vice president of government markets in North America for Motorola Solutions, presented the award: “Thanks to your expert training, quick thinking, valiant efforts and dedicated teamwork, all are safe to celebrate another Christmas. Your selfless act of bravery—seconds from certain death—are a tribute to your profession and an inspiration to firefighters around the world.”