Fire Department Employees to be Honored at the 25th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards

Page archived as of November 23, 2015

 April 11, 2011

 News Highlights

  •  Six Firefighters to be recognized for acts of valor that saved the life of a victim in an apartment fire on May 13, 2010.
  • Two Paramedics to be recognized for acts of valor at a motor vehicle accident with subsequent vehicle fire on August 30, 2010.
  • Alexandria Chamber of Commerce 2011 Valor Awards – April 26, 2011, Noon to 1:30 PM, Alexandria Hilton – Mark Center, 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22311.

More Information

On April 26, 2011, eight employees of the Alexandria Fire Department will be honored at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce's 25th Annual Valor Awards.  These employees were honored not only for their bravery, but for their teamwork during one of the many incidents that took place throughout 2010.

The employees that are to be honored are:

Firefighter James Taylor – Bronze Medal
Captain Thurston McClain – Lifesaving Award
Firefighter Matthew Craig – Lifesaving Award
Firefighter Michael Faber – Lifesaving Award
Acting Lieutenant Doug Townshend – Lifesaving Award
Firefighter John M. Shaffer – Lifesaving Award

On the evening of May 13, 2010 at 11:24 pm, firefighters were dispatched to a two alarm apartment fire in a high-rise building located in the 500 block of Slaters Lane.  The first 9-1-1 call reported an oven fire in an apartment on the 4th floor of the building.  A second 9-1-1 call indicated that there was a report of smoke on the third floor of the same building.

Firefighters from Engine and Truck Company 204 were the first to arrive at the building where they climbed three flights of stairs to the third floor where smoke was reported.  The firefighters opened the stairwell door and were met with heavy smoke conditions.  Part of the crew commanded by Captain Thurston McClain separated from the main group and proceeded to the 4th floor where the first 9-1-1 call reported an oven fire.  Firefighters on the 4th floor encountered less smoky conditions.  Captain McClain radioed to the crew on the third floor that they were returning to assist them.   On the third floor, Captain McClain’s crew, and the second crew commanded by Lieutenant Doug Townshend began a search of the floor to locate the source of the smoke. 

Captain McClain, Firefighter Matthew Craig and Firefighter Michael Faber located an apartment door that was hot to the touch.  They forced open the door and entered the apartment with a fire hose, followed by Lieutenant Townshend, Firefighter John M. Shaffer and Firefighter James Taylor.  Captain McClain’s crew attacked a fire in the kitchen and provided protection for Lieutenant Townshend and his personnel to begin a search of the apartment.  Lt. Townshend split his crew, and part went to the right and part to the left upon entering the apartment.  The crew going to the left, found a male victim on the floor, unconscious and not breathing. The crew reported they were taking the lifeless body of a young man to the lobby to meet up with paramedics on Medic Unit 202. While carrying the patient down three flights of stairs, Firefighter James Taylor removed his face mask and forced fresh air into the mouth and lungs of the fire victim in an attempt to resuscitate him, meanwhile exposing himself to the smoke filled environment without the protection of his breathing mask.

The other part of the crew of Truck 204’s crew that went right encountered two lifeless dogs due to heavy smoke conditions in the apartment. The two dogs were carried by firefighters to the hallway where resuscitation efforts were started but unsuccessful.

Because of the teamwork by the crews of Engine Company and Truck Company 204 and of the quick and selfless actions by Firefighter James Taylor, the victim of this apartment fire is alive today.

Paramedic Jason Cage – Lifesaving Award
Paramedic Elizabeth King – Lifesaving Award

On Monday August 30th, 2010 Paramedics Jason Cage and Elizabeth King were enroute non-emergency to Alexandria Hospital with a stable patient with a non-life-threatening condition.  At the intersection of Howard Street and Seminary Road Paramedic Cage witnessed an automobile accident in which one sedan struck another causing one of the vehicles to cross the intersection and hit a telephone pole.  The vehicle striking the telephone pole caught fire in the engine compartment which began to impinge upon the wooden pole.  

Paramedic Cage informed his partner, Paramedic King, who was in the rear of the medic unit, of the situation and radioed for assistance.  Paramedic Elizabeth King left the medic unit with her patient in the care of another caretaker and approached the vehicle on fire.  She assisted the dazed driver out of the vehicle and safely away from the accident.  Paramedic Cage grabbed a fire extinguisher from the medic unit and started to extinguish the fire in the engine compartment.  At that time smoke had completely filled the passenger compartment, obscuring all visibility inside the vehicle.  The driver assisted by Paramedic King turned and began yelling “My babies! My babies!”; and pointing to the back seat of the car.  Paramedic King and Paramedic Cage, unable to see into the car due to the heavy smoke conditions due to the active fire, and believing there were infants still trapped inside the car decided immediate intervention was critical to the survival of anyone else inside the car.  Approaching the car a second time, Paramedic King re-entered the smoke filled vehicle without any protective equipment or respiratory protection in search of the infants.  Meanwhile, Paramedic Cage continued to attack the fire and prevent it from spreading into the passenger compartment where Paramedic King was searching.  Paramedic King found two small dogs in the back seat of the car which were removed and placed them out of harm’s way with the driver.  No one else was located inside the vehicle.  Paramedic Cage was able to fully extinguish the fire prior to the arrival of additional fire units. 

For their actions in saving the driver of the vehicle and putting themselves in harm’s way to conduct a search of the vehicle in an extremely hazardous environment without proper equipment for what were initially believed to be trapped infants these members are award the Lifesaving Award.  The burning vehicle with a smoke filled passenger compartment was a potentially life threatening situation for both the occupants and the rescuers in this incident. 

For more information, contact Robert B. Rodriguez, Chief Fire Marshal / Community Services Officer, Alexandria Fire Department, at 703.746.5217 or