February 21, 2024

Members of VBFD Engine 17 Awarded the Governor’s Fire Service Award for the Career Outstanding Fire Department Response

Members of VBFD Engine 17 Awarded the Governor’s Fire Service Award for the Career Outstanding Fire Department Response

Today, firefighters from the Virginia Beach Fire Department’s Engine Company 17—Sandbridge Station—were recognized by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs and the Virginia Fire Services Board, for Career Outstanding Fire Department Response for a structure fire that occurred on July 5, 2023, in the 2900 Block of Sand Bend Road.

In the early morning of July 5, 2023, retired Virginia Beach Fire Department Captain Rob Valentine identified that a nearby home was on fire. As he ran to assist, one of his neighbors stated that there were two people on the back side on the balcony. Captain Valentine quickly moved to the rear of the house where he found two adults on a third-story balcony. Virginia Beach Fire Department Engine 17 arrived on scene and was notified of the immediate need for a rescue operation. Captain Matthew Cooley, Master Firefighter Christine Barakey, Master Firefighter Timothy Heard, and Master Firefighter Kevin Wirth simultaneously deployed a hose line to protect the trapped residents while raising a 28-foot extension ladder to reach them. As firefighters reached the third story, they quickly assisted one of the occupants onto the ladder and began descending. The smoke from the fire ignited around the building and on the balcony. The second occupant had no choice but to climb over the railing to escape the heat. Firefighters positioned themselves to help break the fall from the burning balcony. The victims were transferred to EMS care with minor injuries. Retired Captain Valentine remained on scene and assisted with hose movement and logistics throughout the incident. Without the quick and calm actions of all parties involved and the swift and effective execution of teamwork and lifesaving efforts, two individuals who were stranded on the third-floor balcony of a fully engulfed residential structure, were rescued, which prevented severe injuries and the potential death of the two individuals.

Established in 2002, the Governor’s Fire Service Awards are a formal recognition of excellence in Virginia's Fire Services. The Career Outstanding Fire Department Response Award is awarded to any outstanding Fire Department Response made in the last year that demonstrates mutual aid, integration of multiple system components, interagency interfacing and cooperation, or complex assessment or rescue. This award recognizes personnel who displayed critical decision-making abilities or engaged in similarly noteworthy actions that contributed to the successful outcome of an incident. 

For more information on this award or the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, visit  https://www.vafire.com.

PHOTO: L to R: MFF Tim Heard, MFF Kevin Wirth, Capt. Matt Cooley and MFF Christine Barakey

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VBFD Public Information Officer
VBFD Engine 17 Crew Recipients of 2024 Governors Award Outstanding Response Call

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