An off-duty Prince William County volunteer firefighter who rushed into a burning building to help save residents and later rendered aid to injured firefighters has been awarded a rare Gold Medal in the annual Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce Valor Awards.
Firefighter Carrie Wilson, a member of the Stonewall Jackson Volunteer Fire Department, is scheduled to receive the award today at a luncheon at the Clubs of Quantico at Quantico Marine Corps Base. Wilson will be honored along with three public safety officers who are receiving Bronze Medals and 19 others receiving awards for merit and for lifesaving efforts in the 17th annual program.
Wilson becomes only the fifth person to receive a Gold Medal, the chamber's highest award for bravery and heroism. The award is reserved for public safety officials who put their lives in peril while trying to save others.
Last year, Jeff Simpson, an emergency medical technician with the Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad, received a Gold Medal after he died trying to help at the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Wilson earned the award for her reactions to a Manassas apartment building fire April 9. While off duty and in the area of the fire, she heard the call for help over her radio and immediately raced there. Without her firefighting gear, Wilson started the building's fire alarm and helped evacuate residents.
When her engine company arrived, she helped establish a water supply and later assisted two firefighters who were injured during the operation. The next day, Wilson worked with the Red Cross Emergency Response Team assisting 24 displaced families.
Wilson's "disregard for her personal safety and her quick response . . . to a dangerous fire may have saved numerous lives," the award committee wrote. "Firefighter Wilson's dedication and assistance to injured and exhausted firefighters during the fire and follow-through in assisting numerous families in the aftermath exemplifies a high degree of heroism and compassion."
Prince William County police Officer Henry Booth III was chosen for a Bronze Medal for his help with the same Manassas apartment fire. Booth, who arrived on the scene without being called, spotted fire on the building's top floor, ran inside the burning building and helped evacuate the residents, most of whom were asleep. All the tenants escaped.
Two other Bronze Medals are scheduled to be handed out today for separate incidents. Firefighter Christine Connally of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department earned the medal for her work during a Nov. 18 car fire. Connally organized onlookers to help pull an injured man from the wreckage of a crash on Opitz Boulevard shortly before the car exploded.
Firefighter Lawrence Kearnes of the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department will receive the Bronze for his response to a house fire Nov. 27. Kearnes, who was off duty, ran into a fiery home in his neighborhood to rescue a man who was taking a shower and was unaware of the fire.
Receiving Merit Awards are Prince William police Officers Robert Arce, Robert Minnick and Brian Oxendine and 1st Sgt. Jacqueline Wheeler; Prince William Fire and Rescue technicians Michelle Butler, Scott Calder, Stephen Horvath and Landon Timbers Jr.; Virginia State Police Troopers Darrel Estess and Mark Wilkinson; Prince William Sheriff's Deputy Heath Stearns; emergency medical technician Robert Warner of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department; and Marine Cpl. Amber Kephart.
Winners of Lifesaving Awards are Lt. James Dart of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department; Prince William police Officers William Lawrence III, George Motley and Karen Muelhauser; Arlington County Sheriff's Deputy J. O'Keefe; and Marine Sgt. Daniel O'Mahoney.