On March 10, volunteer firefighter Aaron Bledsoe received a text alert about a fire from his department, Grays Harbor Fire District 2.
Reading it, Bledsoe realized it was for the same trailer community he resided in. His actions that morning would see him awarded the Life Saving Medal.
Bledsoe was dressing for his regular job when the alert came through. He immediately searched for the source of the alert.
“I grabbed my fire extinguisher and went out the back door and was met with a column of flames,” Bledsoe said. “I was mainly worried. We have a lot of children and people who might not be able to get out of trailers easily.”
Bledsoe inspected the trailer for occupants. The only person at home at the time was the family’s 18-year old-son, visibly suffering from smoke inhalation.
“I managed to guide him to the window and pulled him out,” Bledsoe said. “From there I made sure he was OK.”
District 2 firefighters arrived on the scene in minutes, but the trailer was a loss, Fire Chief John McNutt said. After guiding the teenager away from the fire, Bledsoe assisted operations away from the fire, he said. Any longer in the trailer could have been fatal for the teenager.
“If I show up in an engine, I’m in full protective gear,” Bledsoe said. “In this situation I was in a T-shirt and jeans. It elevates things.”
Bledsoe said he was surprised by the strength he had to lift the teenager out of the window.
“How much stronger you are when you have that adrenaline pumping,” Bledsoe said. “The amount of adrenaline when you’re trying to pull someone you know out of a fire, I’ve never felt before or since.”
Neighbors with the fire victims, Bledsoe witnessed and helped out where possible in the family’s recovery.
“It was a little surprising seeing what happens after a fire,” Bledsoe said. “With a lot of the help from the community they were able to get back on their feet. Normally at the fire department we put out the fire and make sure everyone’s OK and that’s the end of their involvement. I got to see just how much the community stepped in to help out. It really restores faith in humanity.”
Chief John McNutt said he initiated the motions to award Bledsoe for his actions the same month. McNutt was able to present Bledsoe with the award over the summer.
“We’re very proud of his actions,” McNutt said. “Making sound, safe decisions to save a life, that’s not something every firefighter gets to do. This is a very special thing that not a lot get to experience. ”
Bledsoe demonstrated good sense by not entering the building, McNutt said. Would-be rescuers entering a building can quickly become casualties themselves, adding to the task of firefighters arriving on-scene.
“You don’t want to become a victim yourself,” McNutt said. “We want to do as much as we can from the exterior.”
Bledsoe said he was surprised to receive the award, but has reinforced his decision to go into a firefighting career .
“I was mainly surprised. In my eyes, I just did what I was trained to do,” Bledsoe said. “Overall, combined experience, I have switched views into wanting to become a career firefighter. The feeling of helping, especially someone I know, reaffirmed the feeling.”