Salutes & Awards

June 14, 2012

Fort Huachuca firefighters receive heroism award

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Story and photo by Robert Anderson
Staff Writer

Firefighter Chris Mercer shows the features and use of the Kawasaki Mule 4010 all-terrain wildland response vehicle commonly referred to as “the Mule,” and is one of the newest pieces of equipment the fire department owns for rescues in hard-to-reach areas on the post.

Four firefighters from the Fort Huachuca Fire Department were awarded the Firefighter Heroism Award, Team Award, by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, on May 21. The members of Fire Engine 2 quickly responded to and orchestrated the rescue and evacuation of an injured military police officer in the Huachuca Mountains, in approximately 20 minutes of the initial report.

The event that led to the award nomination took place on the morning of Sept. 24, 2011. Unbeknownst to the Fort Huachuca community, Fort Huachuca Fire Department’s Engine 2 Fire Capt. Dave Rhodes and firefighters Adam Burgess, Anthony Crone and Chris Mercer were rescuing a military police officer involved in a vehicle rollover five miles southeast of the main post in the Huachuca Mountains at an elevation of over 10,500 feet in treacherous terrain, typical of a high Alpine-type environment.

According to the official award package, “The reporting party was requesting the rescue response be set up at the site of the injured Soldier. Engine 2 responded, and during the response to the scene it was requested by Rhodes to put a helicopter on standby. The command post and medical treatment point were established at the mouth of Blacktail Canyon and West Gate Road.

“Upon arrival, the scene size-up revealed the officer had indeed rolled his all-terrain vehicle on a two-track road, driving downhill, striking a rock on the hillside, and therefore losing control and rolling his vehicle. Burgess then came into contact with the Soldier and began his initial patient assessment.”

“We set up a command area with an ambulance standing by, and I suggested we launch the helicopter. My main part was directing the people responding to the area and giving assignments, and we wanted to get our recon vehicle, ‘the Mule,’ out there as quickly as possible. So the firefighters responded to the scene while I stayed back at the command post to continue to direct the response,” Rhodes, a 20-year, fire-department veteran, said.

“Firefighter Mercer and Firefighter Anthony Crone responded using ‘the Mule’ with an IV fluid bag prepared, cardiac monitor set up and blood sugar analysis at the ready. When the firefighters arrived moments later, the military police officer was responsive to commands and appeared to be shaken from the accident. A more definitive medical treatment approach was taken. He was placed on a long spine board, cardiac monitor, an IV started, and blood sugar evaluated,” the report stated.

“The Mule” is the latest wildland rescue vehicle obtained by the Fort Huachuca Fire Department. It is an all terrain response vehicle equipped with medical supplies and seats as many as four first responders and one patient on a gurney.

“‘The Mule’ was able to get us up there with all our gear,” said Mercer, a 6-year veteran of the Fort Huachuca Fire Department.

“As he was being stabilized and loaded onto ‘the Mule,’ I brought in the helicopter. It landed on West Gate Road. I gave the flight nurse and paramedic a quick brief and guided them into the scene. He was then placed in their packaging device and loaded onto the helicopter and taken to the medical facility in Tucson,” Rhodes said.

“Everyone [firefighters] was very professional. They performed flawlessly, and they all knew what to do. They knew how to treat the patient. We treat all of our patients the same, but we had been in contact with this person on police calls, it was like a Battle Buddy, and this was the difference with this response,” Rhodes added.

When asked about being considered heroes, Mercer explained, “I love my job, and I love what I do; I didn’t sign up to be a hero.”

Rhodes agreed. “I don’t particularly feel like a hero because it’s part of the job, and it’s what we do.”




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