Four District firefighters have received the department's highest award for bravery in the line of duty.

D.C. Fire Chief Jefferson W. Lewis presented Meritorious Certificates of Award to Capt. Richard L. Grace and firefighters Joseph C. Healy, James T. Blair and Walter J. Ramsey in a recent ceremony.

Grace, 37, the captain of Truck Company 13 at 1342 Florida Ave. NE, was honored for his part in a rescue last August. Grace helped save a woman and two children trapped on the fourth floor of a burning building at 700 12th St. SE.

"We made the rescue from an aerial ladder," said the 16-year veteran. "I just happened to be the first one up the ladder. It was a real quick type of thing.

Grace said he saw a young child leaning over a window sill and raced up the ladder without a fire mask to grab the child before the boy fell out of the window. The woman, who was also at the window, panicked and ran inside the smoke-filled room. Grace followed to bring the struggling woman and the other child out of the building.

The firefighter said he was not injured during the rescue, but recalling the flames he said, "There are moments when you wonder what you are doing there."

A resident of Howard County, Maryland, Grace is married to Sondra Grace, and they have a 7-year-old daughter, Karen. He said the award is the first in his career with the D.C. Fire Department.

Firefighters Joseph C. Healy and James T. Blair, both of Truck Company 9, at 1617 U. St. NW, were honored for rescuing a child trapped on the second floor of an apartment building at 1430 belmont St. NW.

"There was heavy smoke, and we had to crawl down the hallway," recalled Healy of the rescue in February. "Blair didn't have his mask on."

Healy said he and Blair made their way through an 80-foot-long, smoke-filled hallway, to bring out an unconscious child and search the area for another child. Another firefighter later rescued the second child from another part of the building.

Healy, 38, is a 14-year veteran of the D.C Fire Department. He lives in Rockville, Md., with his wife Patricia and their two children, Joey, 11, and Michael, 9.

Blair, 32, is single and has been with the department nine years. A District resident, Blair has received four commendations and the Bronze Bar for valor during his career.

Firefighter Walter J. Ramsey of Engine Company 6-Rescue Squad 1, 1300 New Jersey Ave. NW, was honored for rescuing three people in March in a fire at 1236 11th St. NW.

Ramsey helped firefighters bring a burn victim out of the building and then ran to the second floor to find a man he had seen standing at the window before he went in.

During his research, Ramsey said the gas meter in the building blew up and "lit up the whole stairwell."

Locating the man, the firefighter brought him out of ladder.

"As I was climbing down the ladder, I saw someone waving their arms in another window. I went back up and got him."

A 12-year veteran of the department, Ramsey, 35, lives in Montgomery County with his wife Elizabeth and their two children, Wendy, 14, and Beth, 12.

Written commendations were also presented to firefighters Patrick A. Lynch, Curtis J. Callaway, John P. Kelly, James A.Kelly, Gerald P. Owens, Frederick O. Powell. Wilbur E. Jenkins, Douglas L. Smith, Claude W. Jackson, Cary J. Firmani, Michael T. Reilley, Scott C. Ruppard, Edward L. Crews, Bernard F. Delcanton, Earl A. Boteler, Kenneth S. Stephens, George M. McDuffie, Charles N. Lewis, Algenon Johnson, Gregory J. Vermire and Roark P Shallow.

Commendations also were presented to inspectors Cody W. Wood and Fred H. Wharton, Sgt. James M. Lane, lieutenants Charles E. Harmon, William C. Reid and Russell H. Fritzman and Capt. Edward G. Garvis.