Civilians and First Responders Honored for Burn Heroism at Eighth Annual Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Awards Celebration
Residents from northern and northeastern Pennsylvania were honored for acts of heroism or commitment to burn education at the eighth annual Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Awards Celebration held underneath a tented venue at Lehigh Valley Hospital—Muhlenberg on October 8, 2013.
The program was started locally by the Burn Prevention Network in partnership with Valley Preferred and Lehigh Valley Health Network to recognize persons who go “above and beyond” to perform a heroic act to save someone from burn deaths or injury. Valley Preferred, a provider-owned, preferred provider organization, sponsored the program to raise public awareness regarding burn safety and prevention. “Valley Preferred is honored to join in the efforts to recognize first responders for their acts of courage, as well as support ongoing programs promoting fire safety and burn prevention education,” says Valley Preferred executive director Jack A. Lenhart, MD. “The lifesaving efforts of first responders and burn prevention education are two of the most meaningful ways to protect the health of families here in our community.”
Burn Prevention Network director Dan Dillard said that “Risking one’s life for another, especially for a stranger, is the epitome of brotherhood and citizenship. It is typically done out of duty - always out of love but seldom with a desire for recognition. The Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage awards celebrate these unselfish acts of heroism. We also acknowledge the efforts of those who dedicate their time and talent to preventing burn injuries as well as those extraordinary individuals who rise up from devastating burn injury to inspire and support fellow burn survivors.”
Here are the honorees who were recognized at the event:
The Phoenix Award
Kraig and Dana Hahn, Pen Argyl, Pa.
Three years ago a propane tank explosion killed 12-year old Luke Hahn and severely burned his father Kraig Hahn, with deep burns over 80 percent of his body. He was given a five percent chance of surviving his injuries, but slowly recovered. While Hahn was in a four-month induced coma, his wife Dana was faced with caring for their two daughters and making arrangements for Luke’s funeral,
all while grieving the absence of presence and support of her critically ill husband. Rather than let this tragedy defeat her, she became the rock to bolster her girls, encourage her husband’s caregivers and engage the family in his recovery. However, she
also had to share their son’s loss with her husband when he was finally well enough to be awakened from his coma. Devastated by the news, Kraig persevered with Dana’s help. He was finally discharged five months after his injury and numerous surgeries and dozens yet to come. One of the most important aspects of Kraig’s and his family’s recovery was memorializing Luke’s all-too-short life. Dana and Kraig established the Luke William Hahn Foundation, which provides free counseling and grief support, and funds academic programs aimed at improving the lives of children in the community.
Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Award
Nick Andriola, Lester Wolcott and Ken Werkheiser, Jackson Township, Pa.
Volunteer firefighter Nick Andriola wasn’t even aware flames were almost at his back as he worked to free Shelly King’s legs from the crumpled dashboard of her Chevy cargo van. Fellow firefighter Ken Werkheiser saw the approaching flames and used a pocket knife to cut the seatbelt tangled around King’s arm. As the fire approached the rescuers, Jackson Township volunteer Fire Chief Lester Wolcott arrived on the scene and reached in and bent the driver’s seat backward in an attempt to free King. Werkheiser had succeeded in cutting through the seatbelt but time was running out as the fire was now entering the passenger side of the vehicle. “My adrenaline had kicked in at that point,” Andriola said. “I didn’t know if the lady could hear me or not, but I leaned in close to her and said, ’I’m here to help you. This is gonna hurt.’” Holding King under her arms, Andriola gave a mighty yank and finally got her free.
Jeremy Warmkessel, Allentown, Pa.
On October 21, Allentown firefighters responded to a report of a house fire at 1136 W. Chew Street. It was initially reported that everyone was out of the structure. Lt. Jeremy Warmkessel entered the structure and discovered a kitchen fire. As his crew began to stretch a hose line, residents of the structure gathered outside started to yell that there might be a child inside one of the second floor bedrooms. Warmkessel gave the order to start fighting the fire, while he made his way to the second floor to begin his search. He was met with thick, black smoke but made his way to one of the back bedrooms, where he found a child lying on a bed. He immediately picked the child up and began his evacuation. During the escape, Warmkessel noticed that the child was in respiratory distress from the thick smoke and immediately removed his face mask and placed it over the child’s face. Medical personnel later confirmed that the child had suffered second and third degree burns and was in extremely critical condition at the time of rescue. Had Warmkessel not acted in a quick and decisive manner, putting his own life at risk, the outcome would have been dramatically worse.
Dustin Grow and Michael Matchette, Allentown, Pa.
On April 12, Allentown Fire Department Battalion 3 was dispatched to a report of smoke in a building on 7th Street. The crew found heavy smoke coming from the front door of the bar area of a mixed occupancy building. As they proceeded, they found heavy fire in that area that was extending into the second floor. As crews fought the bar fire, firefighters Michael Matchette and Dustin Grow began a primary search of the apartments above. They had to force entry into each apartment to conduct their search. Two occupants trapped by heavy smoke were found on the second floor and evacuated. Matchette and Grow returned to the second floor to continue their search despite worsening conditions. From there they proceeded to the third floor when they discovered that their air tanks were almost empty. However, a victim was reported on the third floor so the search continued. The victim was found in a bedroom and rescued.
Brian Quier, Bethlehem, Pa.
A driver pulled off to the side of Route 22 in Bethlehem Township on a cold January afternoon when smoke started pouring from her engine compartment. The smoke began to move into the interior of the car, confusing the woman. Worse still, she was unable to open her door or dislodge her seatbelt. Fortunately, passerby, Brian Quier noticed the smoking car and pulled over to offer assistance. By the time Quier reached the trapped woman flames had erupted from under the hood and were spreading rapidly. Quier attempted to calm the frantic and confused woman while he dislodged the stuck seatbelt and was then able to pop the door open. He then led the woman to safety. By the time Nancy Run Fire Department arrived on the scene the car was fully engulfed in flames.
Michael Zeshonski, Nicholas Bonczkiewicz and Paul Fortuner, Greenfield Township, Pa.
Two volunteer firefighters and a police chief responded to a call for a vehicle crash over the embankment on Route 106, in Greenfield Township, Lackawanna County. Within minutes after their arrival, the car was fully involved in fire with someone trapped inside. “The person trapped inside was screaming to get him out as he was surrounded in flames,” said Greenfield Township firefighter Nick Bonczkiewicz. Police chief Paul Fortuner ran to his squad car to retrieve a fire extinguisher and attempted to knock down the flames while Clifford Township firefighter Michael Zeshonski and Bonczkewicz feverishly tried to detangle the trapped victim. As the flames began to spread again, the three pried the door open and pulled the trapped man to safety.
James Markiewicz and Paul Brutto, Jr., Mahanoy City, Pa.
In the early hours of April 6, Mahanoy City Fire Department and other first responders were dispatched to a structure fire on Centre Street, Mahanoy City. The call was immediately upgraded to a working fire with possible entrapment. Upon arrival at the scene three persons were confirmed as trapped inside the inferno. Lt. Paul Brutto, Jr. and Lt. James Markiewicz commenced a search and removed an elderly man from the first floor. As the search proceeded, firefighters located a couple who had been overcome by smoke while still trapped on the second floor and evacuated them. Despite the efforts of Markiewicz, Brutto and other Mahanoy City firefighters, the couple rescued from the second floor did not survive.
Gordon Potratz and William Lather, Hawley, Pa.
Gordon Potratz and William Lather were driving along State Road 191 in Cherry Ridge Township on the evening of August 7. Suddenly a car driven by a young woman swerved, flew off the road, struck a mailbox and went airborne before landing on the passenger’s side and bursting into flames. Potratz and Lather pulled their cars to the side and sprinted to the burning vehicle. The driver was badly injured and stuck in the car. Because of the positioning of the car and the growing flames, the rescuers were unable to disengage the seatbelt. Lather handed Potratz his pocketknife to cut the belt. Together, they lifted the woman out just as the car became an inferno. By the time the fire company arrived, the flames and heat were so intense that it was impossible to identify the make and model of the car.
Partners in Prevention Award
Gregory Long, Allentown, Pa.
Greg Long joined the Allentown Fire Department in 1987, and shortly thereafter was assigned to the Fire Prevention Division headed by Deputy Chief Ralph Slider. Under Slider’s tutelage Long spent countless hours visiting Allentown schools and teaching children about fire safety. He performed so well in that role that in 1996 he was recognized at the AFD Annual Fire Prevention Memorial Service for his community support and dedication. Not resting on what he had done in the past, Long went on to initiate a story time reading program for Parkland Community Library and established and oversaw Operation Playground, a summertime activity to teach children about fire safety. Shortly after retiring from the Allentown Fire Department, Cetronia Fire Department approached Long and asked him to develop and coordinate fire prevention programs for the schools in South Whitehall Township. That program began in 2007, and continues under his direction.
Frank Zangari, Girardville, Pa.
Frank Zangari, Chief, Girardville Fire Department, has served as the Carbon County Coordinator of WNEP-TV’s Operation Save a Life, a free smoke alarm distribution program, since its inception in 2003. Each fall Zangari comes to WNEP, picks up the Carbon County allotment of smoke alarms and distributes them to all the fire departments in the county. Zangari takes his duties a step farther, however. He insists that the alarms are not to be just given out to the public, but that the alarms are to go to homes with the greatest need and that each one be installed by a firefighter. Through Zangari’s leadership, more than 10,000 smoke alarms have been installed in Schuylkill County! Most recently, a tragic house fire that claimed the lives of six Pottsville residents prompted Frank and WNEP to appeal to Kidde to secure additional alarms specifically targeted at low-income areas. Zangari’s passion for fire safety has led him to become the chairman of the Schuylkill Area juvenile fire-setters intervention program.
About Burn Prevention Network
The Burn Prevention Network was incorporated in 1987 to provide prevention and fire safety education to and advocacy for those at greatest risk of burn injuries. In addressing this mission, the Burn Prevention Network serves as a connecting point to those who are charged with fire suppression; triage and transport of burn victims; regional burn critical care; public safety professionals; professional educators; and the general public. The Network offers a wide variety of targeted fire safety and burn prevention programs, media awareness alerts, legislative advocacy, and support of burn survivors. Visit www.burnprevention.org.
About Lehigh Valley Health Network
Lehigh Valley Health Network includes three hospital facilities - two in Allentown and one in Bethlehem, Pa.; nine health centers caring for communities in four counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by US News & World Report for 18 consecutive years as one of America’s Best Hospitals and is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing. Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Cancer Center is one of only 21 sites nationwide that partners with the national Cancer Institute’s Community Cancer Centers Program. Visit www.lvhn.org.