Firefighters honored for heroism

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- AEDC firefighters' quick response and rescue of a trapped workman here in September landed them the annual Firefighter Heroism Award for Air Force Materiel Command April 2.

AEDC Assistant Fire Chief George Chambers and nine members of his shift responded to a 911 call to rescue a worker trapped by a two-ton, five-foot diameter steel pipe on scaffolding 20 feet above the ground. The man survived the incident with only relatively minor injuries and has since fully recovered and returned to work.

"It just didn't sound like we'd have a good outcome," Mr. Chambers recalls thinking.

They got to the scene within five minutes of the incident and a crane was still in place above the pipe.

"Years of training and the fact that we had all worked together so long definitely paid off that day," Mr. Chambers said. "The scaffold wasn't secured properly and was in danger of collapsing due to the weight of the pipe, but we had to get the man stabilized and out from under that pipe.

"We were able to quickly develop a plan, coordinate with the crane operator to gently lift the pipe off of the patient, stabilize him before securing him to a backboard and Stokes basket, and lower him to the ground. We had an ambulance waiting there to take him to a local hospital."

Mr. Chambers said the award took him and the others by surprise.

"This is what being a firefighter is all about, this is what we get paid to do," he said. "This was a textbook operation that took extensive teamwork and the skill of my crew members and others, including dispatchers and support personnel, to make this a successful rescue."

The center's award-winning team includes Mr. Chambers, Crew Chiefs Robert Hatfield and Kenny Yarbrough, Drivers Dale Freeman and Allen Zimmerman, Firefighters Chuck King, Joe Lobbezoo and Chris Szaroleta and Paramedics Ricky Cope and Scott McPherson.