Four Firefighters Receive Merit Awards for Actions Taken While Off-duty

Even when firefighters are off-duty they consistently feel compelled to provide assistance no matter what the situation. Such was the case for four West Pierce firefighters over this past year.  On July 19, 2016 at the Fire Commissioners Meeting, Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Garrels, Captain/Paramedic Mike Harn, Firefighter/Engineer Travis Kuch and Firefighter Chad Walker all received Merit Awards for actions they took while off-duty.

Merit Awards July 2016

The first incident occurred on April 2, 2016. Firefighter Chad Walker was off-duty camping with his family when he witnessed a hit and run vehicle collision.  Prior to the arrival of police, Firefighter Walker was able to determine where the driver had fled to, and once police arrived, he was able to direct them to his location.  At this time, it was determined this individual needed immediate medical attention for self-inflicted laceration wounds.  Firefighter Walker immediately identified himself as an EMT and quickly assessed the patient who was found to be unconscious, unresponsive and losing large amounts of blood.  Firefighter Walker went into action by opening the patient’s airway, placing a tourniquet on his wrist and applying direct pressure to the wounds.  He continued to attend to the patient until the local fire department arrived.

The second incident occurred on April 23, 2016 in Washington DC. Captain/Paramedic Mike Harn was on the DC Metro train when a fire occurred.  The conductor advised everyone to evacuate and head toward the back of the train.  Captain/Paramedic Harn realized the urgency of the situation and without hesitation, began calming those around him and assisted them to a safe location in the back of the train.  His composure and leadership helped those around him to stay calm and allowed everyone to make it to safety without incident.

The third incident was on April 30, 2016. Firefighter/Engineer Travis Kuch was participating in an athletic competition when another participant fell to the floor due to a medical emergency.  He, along with four other off-duty firefighters and a citizen volunteer assessed the patient and determined he was unconscious and pulseless.  Firefighter/Engineer Kuch immediately directed someone to call 9-1-1 and asked event staff for their Automated External Defibrillator (AED).  Working as a team, CPR was started and the AED was applied.  The patient was shocked and his heart returned to a normal rhythm.  At this point, the patient began to open his eyes and regain consciousness to the point he could answer questions.  The Port Angeles Fire Department arrived and transported the patient to the hospital where he underwent heart surgery.  Undoubtedly, the immediate actions taken by Firefighter/Engineer Kuch along with those around him were instrumental in saving this man’s life.

The final incident happened on May 6, 2016. Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Garrels was driving through Tacoma when he noticed and elderly male on the sidewalk who appeared to be in distress.  He immediately stopped his car to attend to the gentleman while another bystander called 9-1-1.  Upon evaluation he realized this person was in critical condition and immediately needed CPR.  Tacoma Fire Department crews arrived to treat the patient and Firefighter/Paramedic Garrels assisted as if he was one of their crew until the patient was successfully transported to the hospital.

West Pierce Fire & Rescue is incredibly proud to have such skilled and dedicated employees willing to help no matter what the situation.

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