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Fire chief praises ‘people that possess ability to walk into uncertainty’

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Acting chief fire officer Dana Lovell, left, with Michael Weeks, the national security minister, and firefighter Dillon Charles at the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service Community Heroism Awards (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The selfless heroism of a fire crew who rushed to help save a mother and child from a sinking car was celebrated today alongside everyday citizens who battled a boat blaze next to a gas station.

“There are some amazing people in our community that possess the ability to walk into uncertainty and sacrifice themselves in the most dangerous circumstances,” acting chief fire officer Dana Lovell told the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service’s second annual community heroism awards.

The members of fire crew three were applauded for helping to save a woman and child from a sinking car after it plunged overboard at Shark Hole on March 11 — a tragedy that claimed the life of a baby boy.

Heroes: George Dowling III, the Mayor of St George, left, with Michael Bradshaw of the fire service advisory board; Pastor Kevin Santucci; Garon Dowling; Michael Weeks, national security minister; Gavin Carter, staff officer; Dana Lovell, acting chief fire officer; Sloan Wakefield; Royce Wakefield; Jae Paynter and firefighter Dillon Charles (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bravery awards also went to gas station employees and the crew of a boat who faced a blazing vessel in St George’s Harbour on October 9.

Mr Lovell hailed them all as people with “a spirit that says, I will not give up”.

The ceremony came with accolades for dispatchers, whose vital work often went unseen, assistant chief fire officer Troy Furbert said.

Mr Furbert said firefighters’ “courageous acts expose them to extreme environments in the course of their duty”.

“What we can’t anticipate is the courageous actions of our citizens.”

Michael Weeks, the national security minister, told the gathering at Hamilton Fire Station: “There is good in our community, and it completely overshadows the bad.

“We are our brother’s keeper — and Bermudians care for their neighbours and their community. They step up when the need arises.”

Firefighter Dillon Charles had just knocked off duty on March 11 when the car plunged into Harrington Sound.

Gavin Carter, staff officer, added: “What he encountered that day was extremely tragic.”

Sergeant Steven Caisey gave a tribute to the crew that he had “the privilege to lead that day”.

Sergeant Caisey said there were some calls to duty that “hold a different weight” than others.

He praised their “selfless devotion to duty, honour and the people of Bermuda”.

Thanks to social media, the boat explosion at Rubis Dowling’s Marine Service Station in St George’s was quickly witnessed all over the island.

Michael Weeks, national security minister, left, with George Dowling III, Mayor of St George; Garon Dowling, and Jae Paynter Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service Community Heroism Award (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The community also saw the courage of the station’s staff who rushed with fire extinguishers to confront the inferno and cut the boat’s lines.

George Dowling III, mayor of St George and owner of the station, thanked the fire service for recognising him along with staff members Garon Dowling and Jae Paynter.

“Thank you all — keep doing what you do,” he said.

“It’s not easy and I know it can be thankless, but I am thanking you on behalf of Dowling’s and as Mayor of St George.”

Michael Weeks, the national security minister, left, with brothers Sloan and Royce Wakefield (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sloan Wakefield was captain of the boat Tenacious that towed the burning vessel from the marina safely out into the harbour.

Mr Wakefield gave credit to the gas station staff who faced the blaze, calling their heroism “incredible”.

He told the ceremony: “It looked like the flames had gone down, but as we spun that boat around I saw I was mistaken.”

He and his brother Royce Wakefield soon confronted “15 to 20ft flames”.

“The Dowlings are like family to me,” Mr Wakefield added. “I’m not going to sit back and watch people who are like family going up in flames.”

Mr Paynter was singled out by the fire chief as a young man who went to extraordinary lengths to fight the blaze.

Mr Carter also gave a tribute to emergency medical dispatchers — the “tip of the spear”.

“They have to deal with everything from abuse to tragedy and sadness.”

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Published December 17, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated December 17, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Fire chief praises ‘people that possess ability to walk into uncertainty’

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