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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fire/EMS Department Medals of Valor Awarded

MEDIA CONTACT: MARK E. BRADY, CHIEF SPOKESPERSON, 240-508-7930
MEBRADY@CO.PG.MD.US     @PGFDPIO

The Prince George's County Public Safety Valor Awards were held Wednesday, April 26, at Martins Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland.  This years event honored two members of the Department that suffered line of duty deaths with their wives accepting their Gold Medals of Valor.  Several members were recognized for rescuing other firefighters out of harms way as others were recognized for rescuing crash victims.  Other firefighters are being recognized for rescuing a occupant from her burning basement and others for rescuing a couple from the top floor of a burning apartment building.  A Paramedic was also recognized as Paramedic of the Year from her compassion and service above and beyond the call of duty.

Fire Chief Ben Barksdale, County Executive Rushern Baker, Public Safety Director Mark Magaw and other officials were on hand to help recognize everyone reaching awards.

Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department

GOLD MEDAL OF VALOR

Presented to

FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC LIEUTENANT JOHN E. ULMSCHNEIDER
2016 FIRE FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
(POSTHUMOUSLY)


U
VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER KEVIN J. SWAIN, JR.

SILVER MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to

VOLUNTEER CAPTAIN DAVID RILEY


VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER SHAQUITA LIVINGSTON

BRONZE MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to
FIRE FIGHTER AARON VAN SCHOONHOVEN

VOLUNTEER LIEUTENANT MICHAEL O’BRIEN

VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER MATTHEW K. WARD

AND

VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER BRANDEN FITCH 

On the evening of April 15, 2016, Fire/EMS units from the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. and the Forestville Volunteer Fire Department responded to a 911 call requesting a check on the welfare of a family member not responding to phone calls and knocks on the door.  Arriving firefighters and medics announced themselves and also knocked on the windows and doors of the house on Sharon Road in Temple Hills.  Receiving no response and at the urging of a family member, the crew made a decision to force entry through the front door.  In that moment the occupant of the home opened fire, striking two personnel and the family member. 
Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant John “Skillet” Ulmschneider retreated from the home and to his unit, Paramedic Ambulance 823, where his partner, Fire Fighter Van Schoonhoven, quickly assessed him as having a gunshot wound to the chest. 

Volunteer Lieutenant O’Brien and Volunteer Fire Fighter Fitch sought cover behind the unit and radioed for additional assistance, while assisting with treating Lieutenant Ulmschneider.  A quick decision was made to load the critically wounded firefighter into the ambulance and transport to the closest hospital. 

Volunteer Fire Fighter Kevin Swain, who suffered three gunshot wounds, was lying at the bottom stairs of the front porch and still in the line of fire.  Realizing that Swain was unable to retreat under his own power, Volunteer Captain Riley and Volunteer Fire Fighter Livingston pulled him to safety behind their rig, both sustaining injuries in the process.  The pair was met by Volunteer Fire Fighter Ward, who assisted with placing the critically injured firefighter in the rear of the heavy-duty rescue squad and providing medical care.  The crew immediately vacated the area and secured EMS in a safe location.  Despite his now injured knee, Captain Riley drove the rig to a field where EMS resources and Trooper 2 were waiting.  Fire Fighter Swain was flown to Shock Trauma in Baltimore and spent several weeks recovering from his injuries.    
 Due to the life-threatening injuries he suffered on this incident, Volunteer Fire Fighter Kevin J. Swain, Jr. is awarded a Gold Medal of Valor. 

For great personal risk, judgment, and zeal, Volunteer Captain David Riley and Volunteer Fire Fighter Shaquita Livingston are awarded a Silver Medal of Valor.

For unusual personal risk and judgment, Fire Fighter Aaron Van Schoonhoven, Volunteer Fire Fighter Branden Fitch, Volunteer Fire Fighter Michael O’Brien, and Volunteer Fire Fighter Matthew K. Ward are awarded a Bronze Medal of Valor.

Despite the very best efforts of everyone involved in treating Lieutenant   Ulmschneider, tragically, he succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant John E. “Skillet” Ulmschneider is awarded the Gold Medal of Valor for making the supreme sacrifice while in the Line of Duty.  Furthermore, Lieutenant Ulmschneider is designated the 2016 Prince George’s County Fire Fighter of the Year.


Accepting Lieutenant Ulmschneider’s medal is his wife Dawn.  

GOLD MEDAL OF VALOR

Presented to

 FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER E. HILL
(POSTHUMOUSLY)

In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Fire Fighter Cancer Presumption Bill.  This added several types of cancers to the list presumed to be job-related, contracted in the course of duty as a firefighter or paramedic.

In December 2014, Captain Hill fell ill and was diagnosed with an aggressive form of occupational brain cancer.  His valiant 18-month fight against this disease was a testament to his fortitude and tenacity.  Throughout his battle, he served as a role model to his fellow firefighters and paramedic and encouraged them to take precautionary measures against developing this insidious disease.  Captain Hill served our Department and the residents of Prince George’s County for over 14 years.  He passed away on July 21, 2016. 

For his courage in battling the job-related cancer that resulted in him making the ultimate sacrifice, Fire Fighter/Medic Captain Christopher E. Hill is awarded a Gold Medal of Valor

Accepting Captain Hill’s medal is his wife, Jennifer.  

PARAMEDIC OF THE YEAR
Presented to


 PARAMEDIC LIEUTENANT PAMELA J. GRAHAM

Lieutenant Graham’s competency in providing exceptional advanced life support makes her invaluable, whether fulfilling her duties as an officer, crew member, or a mentor to other EMS personnel.  The 21-year veteran of the Fire/EMS Department is a highly motivated individual who believes the residents of Prince George’s County deserve the highest possible caliber of service.  In an effort to do her part, she remains unwavering in honing her diverse skills through education and training, as well as providing mentorship and training to other EMS personnel.  Giving back and helping others is a normal part of life for Lieutenant Graham, much like breathing.  Her passion for serving the residents of Prince George’s County is shown in numerous ways and is infectious among her professional peers and others who come in contact with her.  The following demonstrates just one of the many instances of Lieutenant Graham’s passion for her profession and compassion for those she serves.     

In November 2016, Lieutenant Graham was beginning her EMS shift like usual, when a disturbing call came into the station regarding children in danger.  She and her crew arrived on the scene of the incident and encountered two young stabbing victims, 2-year-old Jordan and 3-year-old Jhalil.  Following several surgeries, the boys were released from the hospital and expected to recover fully.  Although the actions of Lieutenant Graham and her crew helped save Jordan and Jhalil’s lives, she had an overwhelming desire to do more.  This desire motivated her to go above and beyond to help the boys and their mother.  

Lieutenant Graham launched a fundraiser for the boy’s mother, in which she raised $4,000 to assist her with staying afloat after relocating to a safe place.  In addition, Jordon and Jhalil spent Christmas morning with Santa at Lieutenant Graham’s home, where they were showered with donated toys and clothes from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS and Police Departments and the first responders who were on the scene that ill-fated night in November.

For this reason, Acting Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale is pleased to name Paramedic Lieutenant Pamela J. Graham as the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department’s 2017 Paramedic of the Year.    


GOLD MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to

 ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF DARREN O. WARE

BRONZE MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to

 RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL TYRONE N. WELLS


Wednesday, April 20, 2016, was challenging from the onset for Assistant Fire Chief Ware—first and foremost because the Fire/EMS Department was conducting funeral services for one of our members killed in the line of duty.  Secondly, he was tasked with coordinating mutual aid resources and ensuring that personnel who do not work in our system or typically work together would be able to do so safely and efficiently.  Then, upon concluding his shift and heading home, he noticed smoke on the road ahead of him and suspected it was likely a vehicle fire. 

As Chief Ware neared the incident, his suspicion of a vehicle fire was confirmed.  However, he was surprised to discover an adult female driver still inside.  After contacting Public Safety Communications for resources, he attempted to remove the victim from the vehicle.  His attempt was unsuccessful, as all four doors were locked; and the woman was unresponsive to his instruction to unlock her door.  With the fire beneath the vehicle growing larger and progressing into the free burning phase, Chief Ware realized the increasing urgency of the situation.  Hurriedly, he returned to his vehicle, surveying the surrounding area in hopes of finding something that could be used to gain entry into the vehicle.  Chief Ware knew everything was happening very fast, but it seemed like an eternity in the face of the life-threatening situation confronting the victim.
   
Retired Fire/EMS Department Lieutenant Colonel Wells, also returning from the funeral and traveling the same route, spied the incident and stopped to provide assistance.  An unidentified bystander retrieved a construction tool from his vehicle, to assist with a second attempt to access the vehicle.  Forcible entry was in progress when the victim inadvertently stepped on the gas pedal, driving the vehicle down the slope off the shoulder of the road.  The fire was now at a difficult angle with extension into the engine compartment, posing greater peril to an already challenging situation.  It was imperative to affect this rescue immediately and prevent what would surely be a tragic outcome.  With the bystander’s help, Chief Ware and Lieutenant Colonel Wells managed to get down the slope and access the passenger side of the vehicle.  The new position of the vehicle had rendered the driver’s side inaccessible.


SILVER MEDAL OF VALOR

Presented to

 FIRE FIGHTER MIGUEL OCASIO

FIRE FIGHTER THOMAS RHODES


On the evening of January 13, 2016, units from Chillum Adelphi Fire/EMS Station 834 were dispatched to 9205 New Hampshire Avenue for a reported fire in a multi-family dwelling.  Firefighters arrived on the scene to find fire showing from a fully-involved apartment on the top floor of a 4-story in front and 6-story in the rear mid-rise apartment building with a wood roof.  On arrival, Fire Fighters Ocasio and Rhodes observed two occupants trapped on the balcony adjacent to the fire apartment, with flames extending into their dwelling.  Fire Fighter Rhodes positioned Truck 834 in the grass and set up the aerial ladder, while Fire Fighter Ocasio donned his personal protective equipment.  Realizing the trapped occupants were in grave danger, without the aid of protective gear or regard for his wellbeing, Fire Fighter Rhodes ascended the ladder to effect the rescue of the trapped victims.

Reaching the top of the aerial, Fire Fighter Rhodes assisted both victims onto the ladder.  The female’s medical conditions challenged her mobility, prompting Fire Fighter Rhodes to move her down the ladder rung by rung and lifting her each time.  He directed Fire Fighter Ocasio to bring up a Stokes Basket, and the pair carefully assisted the woman with getting into the basket and down the ladder.  Fire Fighter Ocasio helped her from the basket and off the turntable of the ladder truck.  He then carried the basket back to Fire Fighter Rhodes, who ascended the ladder a second time to bring the male to safety.     

 For great personal risk, judgment, and ingenuity, Fire Fighter Miguel Ocasio and Fire Fighter Thomas Rhodes are awarded a Silver Medal of Valor.


SILVER MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to
 FIRE FIGHTER THOMAS RHODES


On the morning of Thursday, June 30, 2016, Fire Fighter Rhodes and his family were traveling on I-81 North in Virginia when they came across an accident that had just occurred.  Observing an overturned tractor trailer in the median with smoke coming from its engine, he immediately pulled over, exited his vehicle, and ran toward the incident.  Fire Fighter Rhodes reached the truck and encountered two people attempting to break the front windshield, in an effort to rescue the trapped driver.  At his suggestion, the three of them broke out the rear window and removed the victim from the truck.  Less than a minute later the truck burst into flames.  Fire Fighter Rhodes then proceeded to the other side of the tractor trailer, where he discovered three additional cars and an SUV were also involved in the accident.  He quickly climbed into the SUV to assist a young female driver who was trapped and realized the victim was hanging upside down with her seatbelt on.  Her hair was trapped beneath the vehicle, and she was experiencing difficulty breathing.  Fire Fighter Rhodes, lying on his back, pushed up on her shoulders to relieve some of the pressure and enable her to breathe better.  He remained in the SUV and helped support her up for approximately 45 minutes to an hour while she was being extricated.  All of the injured persons were transported to the hospital.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities.  For great personal risk, judgment, zeal, and ingenuity, Fire Fighter Thomas Rhodes is awarded a Silver Medal of Valor.   


BRONZE MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to
VOLUNTEER ASSISTANT CHIEF WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, JR.

BATTALION CHIEF DONALD V. FLETCHER, JR.

FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER B. BLACKISTONE

FIRE FIGHTER WILLIAM L. PHILPOTT, JR.

On January 5, 2016, fire and EMS units responded to a reported house fire at 9400 Old Marlboro Pike.  Firefighters arrived on the scene to find smoke coming from the home and bystanders advising that someone might still be inside.  Crews quickly initiated an aggressive interior attack to support searches for a possibly trapped occupant, but none was found.  By this time the fire located on the first floor had extended into the attic space, tasking the crew with opening the roof in support of the interior operations. 

During the roof operation a firefighter fell through a weakened portion of the rooftop, and crew members immediately deployed to assist.  He had fallen through up to his shoulders and was exposed to high heat and smoke.  Ritchie Volunteer Assistant Chief Cunningham reached out and grabbed hold of his comrade’s self-contained breathing apparatus harness, preventing him from falling deeper into the attic.  Battalion Chief Fletcher, Lieutenant Blackistone, and Fire Fighter Philpott ascended ground ladders and reached the firefighter very quickly.  Together the four firefighters lifted their entrapped crew member up and out of the attic.  The stunned firefighter was then assisted from the roof to the ground and placed in the care of EMS personnel, who evaluated him on the scene.  Due to the wearing of full personal protective equipment and swift support from his crew members, the firefighter did not sustain any injuries and was consequently released to full duty.

 For unusual personal risk and judgment, Volunteer Assistant Chief William Cunningham, Jr., Battalion Chief Donald V. Fletcher, Jr., Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant Christopher B. Blackistone, and Fire Fighter William Philpott L. Jr., are awarded a Bronze Medal of Valor. 

SILVER MEDAL OF VALOR
Presented to

FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC CAPTAIN ROBERT G. BILKO

FIRE FIGHTER MATTHEW J. TIPPETT

BRONZE MEDAL OF VALOR
 Presented to

 FIRE FIGHTER CHRISTOPHER M. DeFOREST

FIRE FIGHTER SAMUEL H. SINGLETON


BRONZE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN EMS
Presented to

 FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC CAPTAIN STEPHANIE A. BUFFUM

FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC LIEUTENANT MICHAEL A. DOWLING

FIRE FIGHTER PHILLIP A. CROOKS

FIRE FIGHTER JOHN P. JENKINS

AND 

FIRE FIGHTER/MEDIC ANDREW C. ROHRBAUGH

On the morning of Sunday, January 17, 2016, units from Silver Hill Fire/EMS Station 829 responded to 3105 Bellbrook Court in Temple Hills for a house fire, reportedly with people inside.  Firefighters arrived on the scene and encountered a basement fire with an occupant trapped.  An attack line was immediately advanced through the basement entrance at the rear of the home.  Despite high heat and zero visibility upon entering the residence, Captain Bilko quickly located the victim.  Fire Fighter Tippett held the attack line in place, while Fire Fighter DeForest and Fire Fighter Singleton removed the victim from the burning home.  Once outside, Fire Fighters DeForest and Singleton assisted Fire Fighters Crooks and Jenkins with administering initial treatment.  Consequently, the patient was transferred to Captain Buffum, Lieutenant Dowling, and Fire Fighter/Medic Rohrbaugh.  The administration of aggressive EMS care allowed for quick transport to Medstar; and, thankfully, the patient was expected to recover fully.

For great personal risk, judgment, and ingenuity, Fire Fighter/Medic Captain Robert G. Bilko and Fire Fighter Matthew J. Tippett are awarded a Silver Medal of Valor. 

For unusual personal risk and judgment, Fire Fighter Christopher M. DeForest and Fire Fighter Samuel H. Singleton are awarded a Bronze Medal of Valor.

For unusual EMS skills, knowledge, and abilities, Fire Fighter/Medic Captain Stephanie A. Buffum, Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant Michael A. Dowling, Fire Fighter/Medic Andrew C. Rohrbaugh, Fire Fighter Phillip A. Crooks, and Fire Fighter John P. Jenkins are awarded a Bronze Medal for Excellence in EMS.





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