A camping trip in the remote wildness of the Beartooth Mountains took a terrifying turn last fall when a grizzly bear attacked a member of Justin Reid’s hiking party. Reid, an off-duty Minneapolis fire captain, immediately bound his friend’s wounds to keep him from bleeding to death.
He then created a marker for aerial rescuers and carried the man to a clearing near the Wyoming-Montana border. Reid stayed by his side until help arrived — then remained in the field alone waiting for rescue while bears prowled nearby.
“Without question, the actions Captain Reid took saved the life of the badly wounded victim,” Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said, awarding him the Distinguished Service Medal at the department’s annual ceremony Tuesday night.
Reid, who was unable to attend, was among a dozen honorees, both sworn and civilian, who were recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The recipients walked up to get their medals or pins, a firm handshake and a photo with Chief John Fruetel.
The event at a downtown restaurant was also an opportunity to celebrate firefighters and investigators for outstanding performance, dedication and acts of heroism that sometimes go unnoticed, officials said.
“All the firefighters I have are like my kids,” said Fruetel, who praised those who sometimes endanger their own lives to save someone else. “They’re all heroes to me.”
Three men also earned civilian public safety medals for what authorities described as “selfless actions under hazardous conditions that placed [their] own safety at risk and went above and beyond what is expected of the general public.”
While fishing on the Mississippi River in June, Andrew Herberg saw a swimmer struggling in the water. Herberg discarded his fishing pole and other belongings near shore and grabbed the drowning man, officials say. When the victim regained consciousness, he became combative and fell back into the river. Herberg went to his rescue a second time, grabbing hold of a rope lowered from the bridge overhead and hanging on until fire crews arrived to retrieve them.
In April, Al Broda heard a loud explosion while working as the building maintenance supervisor at Xcel Energy. He could hear a contractor screaming from his basement office. Broda quickly called 911, then ran toward the victim, who was in a smoke-filled electrical room. He pulled the injured victim to safety.
Greg Fee, a Comcast technician, rescued four occupants from a fire in northeast Minneapolis while working in the area last July. When he saw them trapped on the second story of a business co-op, he grabbed a ladder from his truck and jammed it in the window. Then, he helped escort the employees down to safety — quick thinking that fire officials say likely prevented the occupants from dying of smoke inhalation.
“I saw smoke billowing out of the window,” Fee said after accepting his award. “The whole time I kept thinking, ‘it’s not the fire that kills you, it’s the smoke.’
“Thankfully, I was there, or who knows what would have happened.”
Fee says he’s struck by the recognition — both from his company and the Fire Department. But what means most is the vigorous thanks he received from one of the occupants he saved, who’d recently become a father.
“I was just trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Also recognized were:
• Battalion Chief Walten Priest, for helping save the life of a man who dropped in the street during cardiac arrest last May. Priest stopped his car and began performing CPR until the man regained consciousness.
• Capt. Gabriel Fetzek, for assisting a colleague at Fire Station 8 who, despite his denials, was in the midst of a heart attack.
• Capt. Grant Riedemann, for providing CPR to a tourist while vacationing near the Gulf of Mexico. Riedemann helped the swimmer, who went into cardiac arrest, regain a pulse.