LIMA — Thanks to the selfless efforts of a neighbor and two Lima Police Department officers, Tonya Brown and her two children are alive today after a escaping a house fire Nov. 19.
On Wednesday, these three men were awarded with the State Fire Marshal Award for Heroism during Mayor David Berger’s weekly news conference.
During the early hours of Nov. 19, Brown woke her neighbor, Steve Gast, saying her house was on fire and her two children, ages 6 and 7, were trapped upstairs. Brown re-entered the house to get her children, while Gast went to the base of the stairs, escorting one of the children outside. He was escorting the second child out when Lima Police Patrolmen. Samuel Crish and Mathew Woodworth arrived at the scene.
Gast and the second child were taken out of the house, while the two officers ran upstairs to find Brown, who was still conscious but unable to move on her own. They were able to carry her downstairs and out to safety.
“This family experienced the worst and the best life has to offer,” Lima Fire Chief Mark Heffner said. “A fire threatened the family and strangers risked their lives to save this woman’s children and herself.”
Fire Prevention Bureau Chief Frank Conway was on hand Wednesday to present the award, one, he said, that is not given out lightly.
“The application was submitted to the division state fire marshal, it was reviewed by the state fire marshal, and based on the information provided, it was felt that these three individuals truly went above and beyond, exposing themselves to the hazards associated with a fire,” he said.
After the presentation, Woodworth reminisced about the event, saying that he had never imagined that he would run into a scene like that.
“You don’t think, you just react,” he said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
For Brown, no words can convey the gratitude she feels for the actions of these three men. Brown had the opportunity to attend the presentation to thank them on, of all days, her birthday, one she knows she would not be able to celebrate if it had not been for them.
“It’s emotional, to say the least,” she said. “I know that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here and my children would not be here.”
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.