Fresno Firefighters, civilians honored for bravery

Everyday firefighters put their lives on the line while responding to calls.
December 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Heroes are not always recognized for their actions, but Tuesday the Fresno Fire Department came together to honor firefighters and civilians who have stepped in to save lives and those who didn't ignore the call to help.

In March 2012, one house fire quickly became a battle scene for Fresno firefighters. "From my point of view, I basically saw a wall of fire. We had neighbors yelling at us that there was someone inside and I yelled and heard someone yell back," said Captain Gary Wedemeyer, Fresno Fire Department.

Firefighters sprang into action and ran into the burning building with no water, to save a woman's life. "The only thing I could do was put my body between her and the closest flames," said Mark Garcia, Fresno Firefighter and award recipient.

Tuesday, firefighters Mark Garcia and Shannon Swillis were awarded the Medal of Bravery for their selfless act of courage. Their captains were also recognized for their service.

"Our firefighters they have a servant's heart and they want to deliver the very best service they can. And when we can recognize that in a public forum, it's important we do that," said Chief Kerri Donis, Fresno Fire Department.

Several other firefighters were honored for their work. One off duty firefighter and his fellow firefighters jumped into to action to save a man from nearly drowning in a canal.

Civilians were also recognized for bravery to help fellow residents. Howard Ladwig along with two Fresno Police officers were awarded a life saving certificate for holding onto a man who had fallen into a canal.

Fresno resident Bob Thomason was at the ceremony to give thanks after going into cardiac arrest. "I'm lucky I'm alive right now because I was dead for ten minutes."

His first responder, was Karl Preheim, a employee at Wells Fargo. The two men, once strangers, shared an emotional moment at the ceremony.

The Medal of Bravery honor awarded to firefighters Garcia and Swillis are the second highest honors a Fresno Firefighter can receive.


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