Three first responders who braved dangerous conditions during significant fires received top honors at today’s Arlington County Fire Department Recognition and Awards Ceremony.
ACFD’s highest level of recognition is the Medal of Valor-Gold, which honors a member of the fire department who performs an act of valor or heroism in life threatening conditions while trying to save another person. Firefighter/EMT Chad Aldridge received the award for his attempts to rescue two people trapped in a 2014 house fire in Nauck. Aldridge escaped the deadly blaze with first- and second-degree burns, which he sustained when a flashover occurred.
Lt. Fred Kawatsky and firefighter/EMT Jason Updyke received the Medal of Valor-Silver for performing acts that involve great personal risk. They assisted with rescuing victims at a 2014 apartment fire near Columbia Pike. The two moved a wheelchair-bound victim to a safer place inside the smoke-filled building and provided medical care when the person stopped breathing.
Fire Chief James Bonzano and Deputy Chief John Warren presented these and other awards. A total of 23 awards were given to both uniformed and non-uniformed members of the fire department, an Arlington police officer, an Emergency Communications Center dispatcher and three civilians.
Windsor was a rescue technician aboard the U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter on Jan. 13, 1982, when Flight 90, taking off from National Airport during a snowstorm, lost altitude and crashed into the bridge before plunging into the icy Potomac River.
With roads clogged due to the snowstorm, emergency crews had trouble reaching the crash site, and those that did were ill-equipped to rescue the survivors from the water. Windsor and Eagle 1 pilot Donald Usher arrived less than 20 minutes after the crash and began plucking survivors from the river and bringing them to shore.
In bad weather, with the helicopter skids at one point dipping into the water, Windsor and Usher’s efforts were daring — but ultimately pivotal in saving the lives of the five survivors. The rescues earned the pair a valor award from the Interior Department and the Carnegie Hero Fund medal.
Windsor, a Rockville native, most recently lived at Surfside Beach, S.C. He leaves behind his wife of 42 years, Maureen, several sons and daughters, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, according to his obituary.
Windsor was 74.
The Stories Behind the Valor Awards — Wednesday’s Arlington Chamber of Commerce Valor Awards ceremony included some incredible tales of heroism in the line of duty by Arlington’s first responders. In addition to acts of bravery by firefighters and paramedics, there were stories of valor among Arlington’s law enforcement officers, including police officers who prevented a suicidal man from jumping off the Key Bridge in January, an officer who pulled the occupants of a burning, wrecked car to safety, and a Sheriff’s deputy who jumped on the electrified Metro tracks to come to the aid of a man hit by a train near Clarendon. [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington Dog Park Cleanup — Volunteers are being sought for a spring cleaning at the Shirlington Dog Park along Four Mile Run. The cleanup is planned from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. [Examiner.com]
Moran to Host ‘High Level Cyber Summit’ — Rep. Jim Moran will be hosting a summit and panel discussion in Arlington entitled “Cybersecurity in a Time of Defense Austerity.” Among the panelists will be the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer and representatives from the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Cyber Command, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The summit is being held on Tuesday, April 24 at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston.
Olympic Gold Medalist Visits APS Schools — Steve Lopez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in taekwondo, visited students at Arlington Science Focus School and Washington-Lee High School. Lopez encouraged students “to say ‘yes’ to a healthy lifestyle and ‘no’ to underage drinking.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Photo courtesy Michael Resnick
The 2012 annual Arlington County Fire Department Recognition and Awards Program was held Thursday morning at Fire Station No. 5 in Crystal City. Below banners recognizing the station’s role in responding to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and amid the periodic blare of the fire department dispatch loud speaker, nearly a dozen individual firefighters and paramedics and a dozen fire and EMS crews were recognized for their heroism in the line of duty.
Many of the awards given out on Thursday stemmed from two major incidents.
On Sept. 8, 2011, multiple Arlington rescue crews were dispatched as mutual aid to Fairfax County to assist with widespread flash flooding. Those crews performed daring swift water rescues as flood waters from Tropical Storm Lee trapped motorists in their vehicles.
For helping to rescue 12 individuals stranded in flood waters near I-495 and Telegraph Road, Engine 109 firefighters Corey Sherrill and Joaquin Ibarra received the fire department’s Gold Medal of Valor. For helping to rescue 14 individuals over the course of four hours during the flooding, Engine 107 firefighters Fabian Manino, Frank Rachal, Richard Quinn and Timothy Morgan received the Bronze Medal of Valor. Among those rescued by the firefighters were children, senior citizens and a woman who was eight months pregnant.
The other incident happened in Arlington in the early morning hours of June 1, 2011. Around 1:45 a.m., fire crews were dispatched to a house fire on the 5100 block of N. Carlin Springs Road. As firefighters arrived, a man ran out of the burning house and screamed that his wife was trapped on the second floor.
Responding to his pleas for help, firefighters Alexander Dimoff, Jacob Johnson and Battalion Chief S. Doug Insley climbed a ladder to a second story bedroom. Amid heavy smoke, Johnson found a woman lying unconscious on the floor near the bed. The three men were able to lift the woman and hand her off, through the window, into the arms of firefighters Chad Stamps and Mark Jaquays, at the top of the ladder. While still on the ladder, the two firefighters used their medical training to stabilize the patient — who was in respiratory arrest — and then brought her to the ground level where she was transported to a local hospital.
In a speech before the award presentation, County Board member Chris Zimmerman acknowledged that such dramatic incidents are relatively rare in Arlington, and that the firefighters who stand at the ready to risk their lives every day are heroes in their own right.
“You may not have saved a life this week, but you have saved 210,000 people every day from having to worry about it,” Zimmerman said. “And that’s something that’s… a great service to this community. For that, on behalf of the people of Arlington, I thank you.”
More photos, and a full list of the awards and citations issued this year, after the jump.
Police officers dropped off the pizza and some commemorative plaques on Friday night as a way to say ‘thank you’ to three men who helped stop a late night attack in Ashton Heights over the summer.
According to police, two of the men were sitting out on their porch, waiting for a pizza delivery around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14, when they heard a woman scream. The woman, police say, was knocked to the ground by a 25-year-old man after repeatedly rebuffing his unwanted advances. Upon hearing the scream, the men chased down the suspect and held him until police arrived. The third man rushed to the victim to comfort her while awaiting police.
The suspect, Fidencio Gonzalez-Acetun, was arrested and charged with abduction. He’s currently awaiting trial.
During the course of their heroism, the men missed their pizza delivery. As a good-humored recognition of their small sacrifice, police delivered a hot, fresh pizza along with the plaques on Friday.
The men told NBC4 that the gesture “means a lot” to them.
Photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department
Here’s the press release from the Arlington County Police Department:
The Arlington County Police Department is pleased to announce the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Highway Safety Committee has selected two Arlington County officers as the grand prize winners of the 2011 Looking Beyond the License Plate award. The 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division has partnered with the IACP Highway Safety Committee for 13 years to recognize police officers who use license plates to solve serious, non-traffic related crimes.
On February 27, 2010, around 4 a.m., police responded to the 600 block of North Wakefield Street for a call about an abduction. Two young women were walking to a residence when a man confronted them with a handgun. The suspect forced them inside the house where he restrained them. The suspect then forced one of the victims to leave the house with him and she was forced into the suspect’s vehicle. Four hours later, the victim was found seeking help and medical treatment in a neighboring jurisdiction. She was suffering from serious injuries and was transported to an area hospital.
During the investigation of these crimes, Corporal Timothy Clifford and Officer Andrew Nucelli recalled seeing, and running the license plate, of a vehicle that matched the description of the SUV used in these crimes. That information lead to the owner of the SUV, Jorge Torrez. This police work was instrumental in the identification and subsequent arrest of the suspect.
Jorge Torrez was not only convicted of 14 charges including Abduction with the Intent to Defile, Forcible Sodomy, Robbery, and Rape, he was later charged with the death of a Naval Petty Officer and linked by DNA to the a double homicide of two young girls in Illinois that occurred in 2005.
Corporal Clifford and Officer Nucelli will each be honored at a banquet at the IACP Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, next week.
At least, that’s the role Rivera played Tuesday, when he helped to chase down a man who tried to rob a woman at an ATM machine in Courthouse Plaza.
Rivera, an employee in the county’s Commissioner of Revenue office, had just picked up sushi across the street from his office when he saw a man running and someone yelling “thief!” Dressed in a shirt and tie and still holding his to-go box of sushi, Rivera gave chase. Soon, he was joined by two other men, one of whom was calling police on his cell phone. The suspect, a tall, physically imposing man in his mid-20s, tried to flee into a nearby residential neighborhood.
“We went after him, he hid [behind] some houses, and I was like, hey he must be in one of these houses, because he just turned around the corner and disappeared,” Rivera recounted. “So we went looking and he was there. There was some verbal confrontation between him and the other person who was chasing him. Then he ran back into the houses, jumped a couple of fences to keep going, and we were right behind him and jumped a couple of fences, too. When he got to the last fence, which was really high, the police came from the left-hand side and caught him.”
So why did Rivera decide to chase after the man, ignoring the potential danger involved?
“To me, that’s just common sense. That’s just how i do things,” he said. “If someone gets robbed, to me, the people should react in a helpful manner. But there were only three of us that reacted. I didn’t go to tackle the guy… but at least participate in assisting this person who was just robbed.”
“It’s kind of sad to see how little participation there was,” Rivera continued. “I live in Columbia Heights in D.C., and if that would have happened there that guy would have not gotten farther than a block. People over there, they’re going to participate. The men there, if something happens to a woman, they just go.”
“Some kids might just do it for the fun of beating someone up,” he added with a laugh.
Once the suspect was in police custody, Rivera headed back to the office, slightly sweaty but with his sushi still in hand. He told his supervisor what happened, and was granted an extra 15 minutes to finish his lunch. Then, he got back to work. Yesterday afternoon, the victim — also a county employee — came and thanked him.
As it turns out, the suspect never got any of the victim’s cash. She was able to break free from the suspect’s choke hold, cancel the ATM transaction and yell for help, according to police. The suspect, identified as 26-year-old James Williams of no fixed address, has been charged with attempted robbery as well as grand larceny, from a previous warrant.
“It’s not a big deal to me,” he said of the new-found attention.
Despite his regular volunteer work, Salemme has apparently not entirely satisfied his do-gooding instinct. At age 59, the married father of five has embarked on a mission to volunteer in 50 states in 50 weeks, all before his 60th birthday.
“A friend of mine passed away recently and the pastor talked at the service about when we leave this earth there are two dates on your tombstone separated by a dash. He said that life is about what you do with the dash,” Salemme told the Mt. Airy News in North Carolina, where he’s helping to building a house. “I recently celebrated my 59th birthday and I wanted to do something big with the dash before I hit 60.”
Salemme, who lives in a Habitat home he helped to build in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, is no stranger to publicity for his good works. In 2006, the Washington Post profiled him after he moved to Biloxi, Miss. to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Salemme, who had been working as a kitchen designer at the Home Depot in Falls Church, requested to be temporarily transferred to a store in Biloxi so he could spend his spare time rebuilding houses with the local Habitat chapter.
On his latest journey, Salemme has been to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. He often often relies on friends, churches and volunteers to help him find places to stay and food to eat.
So far Salemme has helped install kitchen cabinets for a family who miraculously survived a tornado, constructed an addition for a man paralyzed in a tornado and remodeled a foreclosed home for an unemployed truck driver. Through it all, Salemme has been maintaining a travel blog where he documents his experiences during his “year of service.”
Next on Salemme’s itinerary, according to the Mt. Airy News, is a a short stop back in Arlington before heading to Texas and points west.
Photo via TravelPod
Northrop Could Be Leaving Arlington — The name “Northrop Grumman” may not grace the Rosslyn skyline for much longer. Capital Business reports that landlord Monday Properties has begun to market the primo office space currently occupied by Northrop, after receiving a tip that the company would be consolidating the office into its new Falls Church corporate campus by next summer. More from the Washington Post.
Metro Hero Interviewed on CNN, CBS Early Show — We have to apologize to Virginia Square Metro Hero Dimas Pinzon. He has apparently been hounded by reporters since we posted surveillance video of him walking over two electrified rails to come to the aid of an injured man who had fallen on the track. Pinzon was just interviewed by his hometown newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot, and in the past couple of days he has appeared on the CBS and CNN morning shows. Oh, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show is possibly in the works. More from HamptonRoads.com.
Murray Brings the Bus Back — Republican congressional candidate Patrick Murray has brought back the bus from his successful primary campaign. This morning Murray and the bus traveled to Ballston Metro, where he and his supporters shook hands and talked to voters. The campaign has already posted photos on Facebook.
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Dimas Pinzon was dubbed (by us) the Virginia Square Metro Hero after he jumped to the track and stepped over two electrified rails to come to the aid of a man who had fallen in the path of an incoming Metro train.
What Mr. Pinzon did was certainly well-intentioned and brave. But was his act of heroism also incredibly ill-advised?
Surveillance video obtained by ARLnow.com sheds new light on the incident.
The video starts out with a man, who was suffering some sort of medical emergency, walking toward the edge of the platform in a daze. He falls onto the track just as the platform lights begin blinking, signaling the arrival of a train.
Immediately, people at the station jump into action. Good Samaritans on either side of the station sprint toward the train, frantically waving their arms. Mr. Pinzon, in a blue shirt on the opposite platform, points to the crawlspace under the platform, urging the fallen man to get under it to avoid being hit by the train.
The train, however, slows as it enters the station. As it’s coming to a stop, Pinzon jumps down to the trackbed. He steps on the flimsy cover board of both electrified rails, and comes to the man’s aid. Another would-be hero jumps down to the track, but turns around after a brief stare-down with the third rail.
Pinzon, meanwhile, helps to lift the injured man onto the platform, where other Metro customers evaluate his injuries. Another man helps Pinzon himself get back up to the platform.
Hours later, our interview with Pinzon is published and NBC4 also airs a story on the rescue.
It’s a happy ending, but Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer says it could have taken a much more tragic turn. Had Pinzon tripped while jumping down to the platform, for instance, he would have landed on the third rail and been electrocuted by 750 volts of electricity. Pinzon’s decision to step on the third rail cover was also fraught with danger.
A day earlier Pinzon — a.k.a. the man in the blue dress shirt — had jumped into the path of a Metro train to come to the aid of a man who fell on the tracks while having an epileptic seizure. Then, after the train stopped short and he had helped to hoist the nearly 200 pound man to safety, Pinzon gathered the papers he had dropped on the ground and casually got on a train toward Union Station.
It’s hard to imagine a more ideal hero under the circumstances. Pinzon, 57, is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. His father, an electrical worker for the New York City transit authority, used to take him on the subway and teach him about the dangers of the electrified “third rail.” Despite knowing the dangers, Pinzon hurtled two electrified rails in his effort to get the victim to safety.
It all started around 12:15 p.m. Pinzon noticed people screaming on the other side of the station and saw that a man had fallen onto the tracks. At the far end of the station, the light of an arriving train was becoming brighter. Sure that the train was going to hit the man, Pinzon called out for him to lie in the crawl space between the track and the platform. The victim, dazed and in pain, slowly started to get up, but was not getting under the platform.
“I saw that the train was slowing down, and I saw the guy standing up and he was wobbling around, so it was like, this guy’s going to fall back or something bad is going to happen,” Pinzon said. “I just said to hell with it, someone’s gotta get to him.”
He jumped onto the track, stepped over both third rails, hurried over to the man and put him in a bear hug. With the help of two people on the platform, Pinzon lifted the man to safety. After being helped back to the platform himself, he asked the station manager to call 911. With the man being taken care of by the other riders, Pinzon collected his papers and went back to the other side of the station, where he boarded a train to Union Station.
“My job was done, and I figured I’d go on with my business,” he said.