Philadelphia firefighters this weekend cited 32 colleagues for life-saving actions and honored the first firefighter to be promoted posthumously under a law approved by voters last year.
The family of Lt. Stephen M. Cospelich, promoted to captain by the Fire Department on Jan. 29, accepted the Medal of Honor award Sunday from the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, Local 22 of the International Association of Firefighters.
Cospelich, 56, collapsed following his shift on April 17, 2009, after battling a residential fire in the 6300 block of Ogontz Avenue. He fell into a coma that day and died May 20, one day after voters approved a change to the city’s Home Rule Charter mandating a posthumous promotion for any firefighter, paramedic or police officer who dies in the line of duty.
Also receiving the Medal of Honor on Sunday were the families of George Shultz, who died in the line of duty on Nov. 24, 1924, and firefighter Albert Anderson, who died July 29, 1964 while battling a blaze in Center City. His son, Albert Jr., is now a battalion chief with the department.
The following is a list of on-the-job awards handed out by the union at its annual banquet Sunday, with accounts of the events as they were described at the award ceremony:
-- Firefighter Robert Green climbed into an upper floor of a burning home at Bustletown and Bergen Streets on Jan. 1, 2009, and pulled out an elderly woman overcome by smoke.
-- Firefighter Sean Nelson on Aug. 13 entered a burning building without a water line after hearing reports of children trapped inside. He rescued an infant from inside the house in the 1900 block of Carpenter Street, and then went back to help put out the fire.
-- On Oct. 1, 2008, Lt. Paul McDevitt and firefighters Rick Madison and Gregory Pridgen saved a worker buried in gravel after a trench cave-in at in the 400 block of Flamingo Street. They first cleared the dirt from his head and face so he could breath, then shored up the trench while they removed him. The incident occurred while the city was replacing sewer lines in Roxborough. Paramedics Roy Burkett and Mark Williams and firefighters Randy Cunningham and William Perrone received distinguished service awards for their actions at the scene.
Distinguished Service Awards:
-- Paramedics Patrick Carey and Scott McGarrigle on Oct. 14 pulled Dr. Joe Jelen from a car wreck at Roosevelt Boulevard Circle near Nazareth Hospital, first prying the dashboard away from Jelen’s neck. He had no pulse, but Carey and McGarrigle revived him.
-- Firefighter and experienced lifeguard William Auty was recognized for his off-duty effort to rescue and revive a drowning victim in North Wildwood, N.J.
Paramedics Khary Hunt and Karen Bucca-Lee, along with firefighters Andrew Sayers, Eric Howe and Stephen Bauer, combined to revive a five-week-old infant in cardiac arrest during a call on Sept. 18 in the 6300 block of Ditman Street. The boy was found to have extensive injuries, and his parents were later charged with child abuse.
-- Paramedic Matthew Flannigan used a defibrillator and advanced life-support to revive a 38-year-old woman who collapsed during the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon.
-- On Nov. 7, Capt. Joseph Breen and firefighters Jamie Dignam, Michael Cameron and Sean O’Neil had to fight back flames while they cut the driver and passenger out of a vehicle that had crashed into a tree and caught fire in the 4100 block of Levick Street. Paramedics Brian Anderson and Mark Doyle provided life-saving first aid.
-- Capt. Richard Romano and firefighters Charles Kobierowski, John Mooney Jr., Robert Colfer, Francis X. Chaney and Charles Sgrillo rescued six adults from the second floor during a heavy fire at a residence in the 2900 block of D Street on Dec. 5.
-- On May 28, 2008, firefighters Francis Killian and Jamal Walker, using a portable ladder, pulled a man and woman from the third floor of a smoke-filled building in the 2100 block of South 15th Street. Killian helped the partially-paralyzed man make it down the ladder, and Walker grabbed the woman while she was hanging from a window and carried her down.
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