Ricardo Martinez, 16, may only be in high school, but if an award ceremony this week is any indication, he could have a future as a firefighter.
Martinez was honored Tuesday with the Meritorious Service Award, the highest civilian recognition given by the St. Paul Fire Department, for his efforts to save a man and his brother from a burning duplex last month on the city's West End. He was honored alongside several other residents and fire staff.
"It feels pretty good," Martinez said.
The award is given to people who go above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of their own lives, said St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler.
"To have that presence of mind at such a young age is really commendable," said Capt. Sean Lofgren, a paramedic who responded to the fire scene and was also honored.
On July 21, Ricardo rushed into the duplex at 424 Goodrich Av. after hearing screams. The thick smoke forced him back outside where he scaled a ladder to climb to the roof above the house’s porch. When Martinez reached the top, he spotted Richard Stauch through the window and was able to get him out to the roof. But when Martinez went through a window and called through the smoke to Stauch's brother Louis, there was no answer. Firefighters later rescued Louis Stauch.
Besides Martinez, several others also were honored in the Tuesday ceremony. Joshua Hoover and Dale Tilleskjor received Letters of Commendation for attempting to rescue the Stauch brothers by going into the burning building and trying to knock down the locked door where the men were trapped. They had to retreat because of the heat and smoke, but they were able to help Martinez by finding a ladder. Jackie Venable also received a Letter of Commendation for calling emergency crews and rushing into the building to try to save the brothers' dog. Fire District Chief Barton "Butch" Inks and the Engine/Medic 10-B Shift also were honored for their work that day.
Deanna L. Thielbar, the homeowner's girlfriend, was charged earlier this month with first-degree arson for allegedly setting the duplex on fire following a fight with the homeowner. The two brothers had been renting the second-floor unit.