We count on them to come to our rescue in times of need. Firefighters are known for their courage, honor and bravery, and each year the Lexington Fire Department recognizes firefighters who show the highest level of dedication. In early December 2017, the Lexington Fire Department awarded two Medals of Honor, Firefighter of the Year and Fire Officer of the Year.
MEDALS OF HONOR
The Medal of Honor is the highest award an individual may receive. It involves the highest degree of heroism and carries the extreme risk of losing one’s life. Andy Beck received this honor for his response to a house fire on Harrington Avenue. Beck entered the home without the aid of a hose line or crew after learning a person inside needed help. He rescued Gladys Davis from the home alive and she unfortunately later passed away. Beck has since retired from the Lexington Fire Department, but Chief Phil Hartley says Beck was the perfect example of a great firefighter stating, "If you were to look up the definition of a firefighter, you would see a picture of Andy Beck."
Firefighter Tim James also received a Medal of Honor. Chief Hartley says James is a professional in every sense of the word. James also crawled inside a burning home without a hose line or crew to rescue a 9-month-old child from her crib. James said he felt like he was in the right place at the right time. The fire was less than a mile from the fire station. When asked what went through his mind before entering the home, James explained how his reaction was instinctual, "We go through a lot of training and are always taught to assess and react. You see what the problem is and you try to make it better. We have to make split second decisions." James remembers that day vividly, "The smoke and heat conditions were tremendous. I moved through the room with my hands on the wall because the flashlight I had was ineffective due to thick smoke. I discovered the the infant's crib after searching along two walls, and by that time, the fire had extended down the hallway and began entering the room I was in. Normally I would have closed the door in the room as I moved around to search, but there was no door. I remember my ears and wrist beginning to feel really hot and burning. While feeling around the crib I found what I knew was the infant. The search process was probably less than three minutes, but it seemed like I had been in the house for 30 minutes."
The child was airlifted in critical condition suffering burns to her head, face and arms, however, she was able to make a full recovery. Some years later, when the child was about 5 or 6-years-old, the mother and the child visited James at the fire station to say thank you. "I have not seen this family in several years now but will never forget that night and the efforts of so many professional people working to save the child," said James. "Although it happened many years ago, the memory will be with me forever." James says it is a real honor to be recognized with a Medal of Honor. He says it was unexpected since it has been several years since the fire.
Caleb Whitman was named Firefighter of the Year. This is an award that the department has been presenting since 2012. It is presented to an individual who has displayed a total commitment to his or her profession, organization and community. The award exemplifies an untiring and unselfish devotion to “one’s-fellow-man”.
Kenny Fleming was named Fire Officer of the Year. This award is presented to an officer, Captain or above who has displayed a commitment to his/her profession, organization and community. The award exemplifies a high degree of leadership, motivation, supervisory skills, superior job knowledge and personal accomplishments.
These awards were presented just prior to one of the biggest fires in Lexington's history. Chief Hartley explains, "Each member of the Lexington Fire Department (LFD) trains day in and day out for the worst case scenario. We train to fight small fires and big fires hoping that we never see either one. On December 19, 2017, the Lexington Fire Department fought the biggest fire in the history of this City. The actions and bravery displayed that night were second nature because of the rigorous training we endure. It is truly an honor to work with the men and women of LFD every day and especially on that historic night.”