Thursday, April 5, 2012
The water was swiftly rising, surrounding a police officer trapped on the hood of his vehicle during the deadly flash flooding that devastated the region on Sept. 8, 2011. By the time first responders from Burke Fire Station 14 arrived on the scene in Great Falls, a rescue boat had already tried and failed to reach the stranded officer.
Lt. Earl Burroughs quickly surveyed the scene and concluded that walking into the water was the only remaining option. With waist high water and debris littering the fast-moving current, it would be a dangerous operation. But after traversing 75 yards of rising swift water, Burroughs, Technician Eric Wyatt and Master Technicians William Kight and John McDonell were able to reach the officer and successfully traverse the water once again to bring him safely to dry ground.
For their acts of heroism in that day, the Burke firefighters were honored March 21 with Bronze Medals of Valor at the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Valor Awards. Also honored for their rescue efforts at the scene were Capt. David Conrad and Technician Robert Ritchie, who received Certificates of Valor, and Firefighter/Medic Joseph Deutsch and Technician Robin Clement, who each received Lifesaving Awards.
At the event at the Hilton McLean of Tysons Corner, the Chamber recognized 108 of the county's first responders at the 34th Annual Valor Awards. Members of the Fairfax County Police Department, Sheriff's Office, Fire and Rescue Department, as well as from the Towns of Herndon and Vienna, were given awards.
Thirty-five responders were given Bronze or Silver Medals of Valor, and their children will receive post-secondary education scholarships from the Valor Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)3 foundation. To date, more than $250,000 in scholarships has been awarded.
The flash flooding of Sept. 8, a result of 6 to 10 inches of rain that deluged the area, brought numerous calls for water-related rescues and 18 Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel were honored for their efforts that day. The firefighters saved dozens of lives by rescuing people who were trapped by rising water, in danger of washing downstream or were otherwise trapped by the severe weather conditions.
The Chamber also awarded 48 lifesaving awards and 25 certificates of valor during the ceremony.
"We have heard some remarkable accounts of heroism today," said Doug Brammer, chair of the Valor Scholarship Fund. "Having done this for a number of years, it just reinforces that when things are at their worst, our first responders are at their best."