Volunteer firefighter Carrie Wilson wins top valor award

Stonewall Jackson volunteer firefighter Carrie Wilson was honored with the Gold Medal — the top valor award given to a public safety official in Prince William County, by the county Chamber of Commerce during a Thursday ceremony held at The Clubs at Quantico, on the Quantico Marine Corps base.

Wilson received a standing ovation from the hundreds of local business leaders, military, emergency and law enforcment representatives who attended the ceremony.

Her award was to recognize her off-duty efforts at an apartment fire on April 9, 2002. The Gold Medal has only been given out five times since the awards inception in 1991.

Wilson, 29, was in her car at around 2 a.m. that day, when she heard dispatchers call for units to respond to a Manassas-area structure fire.

She got to the scene quickly and pulled the building alarm. Then the Manassas-area resident began the difficult task of waking the many sleeping residents.

Not long after she arrived, Prince William police Officer H. Booth III — who won a bronze medal Thursday — responded as well and rushed upstairs to wake people.

Time was running out and the two were afraid the entire building soon would be engulfed.

“I was petrified that I wasn’t going to be able to get everyone out of that building in time,” Wilson said.

The wind was blowing hard, and the fire was spreading rapidly.

After firefighters from Wilson’s company arrived, she briefed them, and helped set up a water supply for the firefighters entering the building.

Moments later, an engine officer fell from a balcony railing that was weakened by the rapidly spreading blaze.

With debris and ashes raining down on her, Wilson rushed to the man’s aid to provide medical assistance. She was wearing only jeans and a T-shirt, and suffered minor burns.

Wilson was overwhelmed by the award and the response that came with it, she said after the ceremony.

“I was humbled because two of my fellow firefighters were injured,” she said. “I felt helpless, and wanted to do everything I could to help them and support them.”

As the fire progressed, the building’s roof collapsed onto the third floor apartments. Wilson attended to exhausted crew members.

Later that morning, she helped the Red Cross locate temporary shelter for the 24 families displaced by the fire.

Police officer Booth called the bronze award the “greatest honor” of his life.

Twenty-two other people representing seven agencies were also honored.

“These are essentially ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

Volunteer firefighter Christine Connally of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department won a Bronze medal for saving a man from a burning car Nov. 18 on Opitz Boulevard in Woodbridge. The man was trapped, and Connally, along with bystanders, got the man out of the car moments before it exploded.

Volunteer Firefighter Lawrence Kearnes, of the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department, was awarded the bronze medal for making his way through thick smoke and heat in a house fire to save a man who was in the shower and had no idea what was happening.

The man would have been trapped without Kearnes’ help, said Jim Vance, NBC 4 anchor, who announced the awards.

The Merit Award is given out for actions involving personal risk and ingenuity.

Prince William police officers R.A. Arce, B.K. Oxendine and R.W. Minnick received the award for evacuating people from town houses adjacent to where a deck was burning on July 1, 2002. Even though a gas meter on one of the homes exploded, the three officers continued to work toward the evacuation of residents, Vance said.

Technicians Stephen Horvath, Michelle Butler, Scott Calder and Landon Timbers Jr. were also honored with the Merit Award for bringing a man back from cardiac arrest on Nov. 22, 2002.

The man stopped breathing while driving. His brother was also in the car. A paramedic’s advanced-life-support unit was delayed because of terrible rain conditions. The four responders found a blanket, and put the patient on top of it, so they could defibrillate. They shocked him a number of times; and his heart began beating again.

Senior Virginia State Trooper Mark C. Wilkinson and Trooper Darrell D. Estess were honored with a Merit Award for working undercover to arrest over 70 men for allegedly engaging in sexual activity in Conway Robinson State Park. The two worked undercover during both April and August of 2002, and were assaulted during their investigation, Vance said.

Corp. Amber V. Kephart, a U.S. Marine was honored with a Merit Award for stabilizing the cervical spine of an accident victim on Oct. 1, 2002. She also provided first-aid to the victim’s son, whose leg was broken, Vance said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Stearns was honored with the Merit Award for crawling through the smoking wreckage of an over-turned car and removing an infant after helping the baby’s family out of the car on May 7, 2002. The Manassas-area accident forced Stearns to crawl out of the back windshield with the baby.

Emergency Medical Technician Robert W. Warner of the OWL Volunteer Fire Department helped defend a police officer against a combative patient and his family. The officer was dragged from an ambulance and beaten on April 28, 2002, Vance said. After pepper-spraying and handcuffing one of the combatants, Warner rendered care, “without prejudice,” Vance said.

Senior 1st Sgt. J.B. Wheeler, aware of sex complaints and an alleged kidnapping, contacted Manassas City officials to establish a perimeter around the city limits to check cars, after a suspect license plate had been traced to a Manassas address on May 5, 2002. An officer on the perimeter saw two women in the car acting in a suspicious manner, Vance said. Police determined that the suspect’s daughter owned the car. Wheeler asked the woman to let her drive the car around, to lure the suspect from hiding. He apparently went for the bait, and was apprehended by Wheeler.

The Lifesaving Award is given out for incidents in which someone’s life is in imminent danger.

Prince William master police officers W.A. Lawrence Jr. and G.W. Motley, along with Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy J. O’Keefe, were honored with the lifesaving award for working together to save an unconscious, 6 foot, 10 inch man who weighed 300 pounds from a burning, locked car that had slammed into a guardrail on Interstate-95. The accident occurred on Feb. 25, 2002.

Lt. James Dart, volunteer firefighter of the OWL Volunteer Fire Department was honored with the Lifesaving Award for calling “abort, abort, abort!” and informing a rescue helicopter pilot of the presence of live wires in the landing zone at an accident scene. The April 6, 2002, accident occurred on Montgomery Avenue in Woodbridge.

Prince William Master Police Officer K.A. Muehlhauser was honored with the Lifesaving Award for opening airways and monitoring accident victims until medical help could arrive at a Va. 28 accident on Dec. 30, 2002.

Sgt. Daniel P. O’Mahoney, a U.S. Marine, was honored with the Lifesaving Award for adjusting the position of a teenager who was hit by a car. If he hadn’t, the girl may have choked on her own blood. He also guided a rescue helicopter to the scene.

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