While we’re well aware of the Medal of Honor and other military awards bestowed on our warfighters, it is perhaps less well known that awards are given to our public safety officers including firefighters, law enforcement and emergency services personnel.

In 2001 Congress passed The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act, which created the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer.

The medal was to be awarded annually by the President or Vice President to public safety officers (living or deceased) who exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.

To receive the Medal of Valor, public safety officers must be nominated by the chief executive officer of their employing agencies, recommended by the bipartisan Medal of Valor Review Board, and cited by the Attorney General.

Since its creation 29 firefighters have received the award, according to the official website.

Here are the baddest badass firefighters who’ve been awarded the Medal of Valor since 2016:

2017 – Fire Captain Dustin Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Andrew Freisner (Lenexa Fire Department, KS)

On the afternoon of April 24, 2017, Fire Captain Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Freisner entered a burning building, located its occupants and successfully rescued the people inside – including the family dog. When they arrived at the apartment building, smoke and fire was coming from three sides, on all three stories, and the roof. Wind gusts of 35-miles per hour were quickly stoking the fire.

Assigned to evacuate the building, Fire Captain Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Freisner learned that a family was trapped on the second floor. The two men placed a ground ladder on the side of the building, climbed up to the balcony, removed the glass from a locked sliding door and went inside.

They found the apartment filled with smoke, with the heat rising and near zero visibility. Fire Captain Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Freisner found an unconscious adult and two young children in a bedroom, and carried them to the balcony where they were handed them off to firefighters on the ladder. The disoriented adult said there was no one else in the apartment. But Fire Captain Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Freisner went back to make sure, and found and rescued the family dog.

If not for the actions of Fire Captain Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Freisner, the family would have perished in the fire within minutes.

2016 – Firefighter/Harbor Patrol Officer David Poirier Jr. (Redondo Beach Fire Department, California

On the evening of February 24, 2016, the Redondo Beach Fire Department received reports of people crying out for help near the breakwater wall at the King Harbor. A Harbor Patrol boat staffed by Firefighter/Harbor Patrol Officer David Poirier Jr. and a boat captain responded to the call. The tide was high and a moderate swell was causing waves to top the breakwater wall every four to six minutes.

Officer Poirier and the captain found four victims in the water. They had been fishing at the wall when a wave swept them over the top and down the east side, a 15-foot fall. One of the victims was floating face down and presumed dead, and the remaining three were suffering from serious injuries as a result of their fall down the rocky wall. They’d been in the water for at least 20 minutes and were also showing signs of shock and hypothermia.

Officer Poirier jumped in the water to assist the injured victims while the captain went for additional help. When the captain returned to the scene, he watched large waves wash Officer Poirier and the three surviving victims off the rocks and back into the deep water, submerging all four.

Officer Poirier resurfaced, holding onto two female victims. The third survivor, a male, managed to get back to the rocks with some assistance. Officer Poirier got the two women and the deceased victim into the rescue boat, then returned to the rocks to assist the remaining survivor. Waves continued to pound Officer Poirier and the victim, but Officer Poirier managed to get the man to safety.

Night rescues in large surf conditions are highly risky even when many rescue personnel are available to perform the tasks. In this situation, three people were saved as a result of the courage, superior conditioning and swim rescue skills of Officer Poirier.

2016 – Engineer Stephen Gunn (Peoria Fire-Medical Department, Arizona)

On April 7, 2016, the Phoenix Fire Department received a call to respond to a fire at a large single-story home in which several people were trapped. It was later determined the fire was caused by arson after a home invasion and had quickly spread through the house as several propane tanks on the back patio exploded.

Through a blown-out picture window, Engineer Stephen Gunn observed an unconscious victim several feet inside a room full of smoke and roiling flames.

Without hesitation, Engineer Gunn stepped into the flames to rescue the victim. For 40 seconds he worked inside the blaze, his helmet melting, his protective gear blackening and his skin burning. Finally, just before the room flashed with flames, he was able to pass the victim to the waiting hands of his captain.

Engineer Gunn was treated for his burns at the Arizona Burn Center and was back on his next shift. Sadly, the victim succumbed to his injuries a few days later.

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