Valorous Unit Citation collage

Valorous Unit Citation awarded to five for actions taken at the Max House Apartment Fire

On July 24, 2021, at 1:36 a.m., Engine 331 was dispatched to a smoke investigation in the 100 block of West Main Street. Once in the area, they determined that the smoke was coming from the roof of the Max House Apartments at 115 East Main Street. Engine 331 upgraded the alarm to a commercial fire. Aid 331 was just clearing a call and added themselves to the fire.

The engine crew quickly connected to a water supply and stretched a hose to the front of the building. The crew found fire in the stairwell leading up to the second-floor apartments. Captain Gervase Henson and firefighters Rachael Labender and Ryan Nauer knocked the fire down in the stairwell and made their way to the second floor, where they encountered high heat and low visibility. At the top of the stairs, they found two people looking for a way out. Captain Henson and Firefighter Nauer assisted the two individuals through the smoky hallway and out of the structure. At one point, Captain Henson had to use his body as a shield to protect both residents from the fire in the stairwell.

Upon arrival, Aid 331 personnel, firefighters Darrel Normandy and Ryan Simpson, raised a ladder to the second story of the building and rescued two residents from their apartments. Aid 331 then pulled a hose line, entered the stairwell, and accessed the second floor to conduct a primary search. Engine 331 reentered the building and continued to search for occupants. Both crews completed a search on the second floor before fire conditions caused them to withdraw from the structure.

In recognition of their courageous actions, Fire Chief Brad Thompson awarded Captain Henson and firefighters Nauer, Labender, Normandy, and Simpson a Valorous Unit Citation, commending them for their efforts in rescuing four people from a hostile fire environment.

The Valorous Unit Citation is the highest unit decoration awarded by the VRFA to a public safety unit. It is presented for conspicuous bravery while at significant risk to life or limb in the performance of duty during combat operations. The unit that receives this award will have had direct action in saving lives, either civilian or public safety personnel.