Life-saving acts that had gone largely unnoticed won high praise Friday at a Minneapolis awards ceremony.
Peering into the remains of a house that had just exploded, Dan Lemon could see a child's bare foot. He passed into the building and began pulling debris off the girl's body. Smoke was filling the house. Flames were pressing in.
Moments before, the Roseville resident had been at a friend's house on the 5600 block of 32nd Avenue S. in Minneapolis playing Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game. Now the stakes were real.
What happened next was one of several heroic moments that Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson put in the spotlight on Friday at an awards ceremony.
Too many acts of bravery go unnoticed, he said, and some commendations were in order for the lives saved by members of his department and by private citizens.
The event, held at the Minneapolis Fire Museum in northeast Minneapolis, was something many publicity-shy firefighters were slow to attend, Jackson admitted: No one wants to take credit for just doing their job.
Chief Jackson also took a moment during the ceremony to thank Dennis Mack and Jacob LaFerriere, two firefighters who were badly burned in a fire this year, for their service.
The ceremony also brought together five people who in 2004 worked together to stop a woman from jumping off a bridge. She had climbed over the railing and was about to jump to her death when Minneapolis police officers Roderick Rabine and Robert Lewis reached through the railing to catch her. They stopped the woman from plummeting to the ground below, but their grip wasn't firm enough to lift her over the railing. That's when three Minneapolis firefighters arrived and helped bring the rescue to a successful close.
Firefighters Joseph Silva, Siobhan Mullen and Thomas Villagomez assisted with the rescue, with two of them climbing over the railing to get a better grip on the woman.
"We probably should have tied in," said Silva on Friday, thinking back to that day. The firefighters had so little time that they didn't tie themselves to anything before going over the railing.
The woman was pulled to safety.
Firefighter Charles Rucker was also recognized for his volunteer work and for efforts to secure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the city's poor.
A selfless race toward danger
When a house nearby exploded on Sept. 12, 2009, Lemon and his friend Joseph Spraggon of St. Paul ran to see what had happened. They could hear a girl screaming for help inside the burning house. Lemon got in through a front window that had been blown out, and found Olivia Schuller, age 10 at the time, covered in debris and unable to move.
He pulled her from the wreckage and handed her off to Bradley Laudert of Minneapolis, who lives nearby and who had also come to help.
Schuller was hospitalized, but was eventually released from the hospital. She later gave St. Christopher's medals to both Lemon and Laudert.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747