July 16–A number of firefighters were honored for their life-saving work at Tuesday's city council meeting, for two fire incidents in 2014.
Engineer Matt Ceballos, firefighter Anthony Shair-Ali and Captain Dan Sarna were given commendations for their actions at an Aug. 5 fire in 2014. Captain Jason Welsh, Captain Kevin Hickey, firefighter Dan Gutierrez were honored for their life-saving efforts at a fire in November 2014, where an off-duty Sarna also assisted in the fire to save a man's life. Sarna was given the Medal of Valor for his work.
“I was surprised. (I'm) at the end of my career, so it's a nice way to go out,” Sarna said. “It's exciting. It's the seventh save I've had, but it's the first I've ever received an award for.”
The blaze on Aug. 5 was a two-alarm fire, where firefighters arrived at a boarded up house known to have squatters. There, Sarna said the second story was fully involved in flames, with smoke filling the first floor and firefighters had to use chainsaws to gain access to the house.
Firefighters eventually located a disoriented man and his dog inside a closet. The man passed out and firefighter Shair-Ali carried the man and Sarna brought the dog out of the fire and both survived.
When talking about the fires the firefighters were honored for, Sarna said that whenever a firefighter can save a life, it is “special.”
“When you think that by the time we get an alarm, it's been burning long enough for someone to report it. We … get in the rig and respond, there goes 3-4 minutes. So you're talking average of 5-6 minutes before you even arrive on scene,” Sarna said. “So to be able to pull somebody out of a fire and have them live and not be badly injured, is special.”
Sarna again helped save someone in November when he noticed a fire burning at the Discovery Inn on Lincoln Road West, while off-duty at a coffee shop nearby. Sarna helped to fight back the flames with the use of a few extinguishers before fire crews arrived. Together, firefighters were able to gain access to a room and help save an unconscious man found inside.
“Those medals of valor, they're really not something that I did that's some altruistic part of my personality,” Sarna said of the incident, “because everyone here would have done the same thing. And probably any citizen that was going by would have gone in.”
For Sarna, the Medal of Valor wasn't given for his actions, but to honor the person who survived.
“It wasn't (given) because I did anything that was brave or anything, it's to celebrate a life that went on and wasn't hurt,” Sarna said.
At the ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Osby Davis spoke to the firefighters and attendees, saying he “wasn't surprised” by the heroic actions of the Vallejo Fire Department.
“The fire department has never ceased in making its commitment and giving its all in the difficult times,” Davis said. “… They continue to give without reservation … whether they're on duty or off duty.
“We truly thank you and it's just indicative of the people we have working in the city of Vallejo,” Davis concluded.
The work of the firefighters commended is just what any of the crew would have done to help people, according to Sarna.
“If they would have been there first, they would have gotten the valor award (instead of me),” Sarna said. “All of them, they come here everyday and they do that everyday. That was nothing special for them.
“It's special, of course, to saves somebody, but everyday (firefighters) do the same thing,” Sarna continued. “They dedicate 25 percent of their lives or more to the city of Vallejo and the fire department and serving the citizens. You just can't say enough about them. … We just come here and work and do the job and that's just kind of the department we have.”
Contact Dianne de Guzman at 707-553-6833.
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