In December, Huntsville Fire Department firefighters and volunteers were honored for service to the community, and four were awarded Hero Awards for the first time in department history.

In 2005, volunteer firefighters David Warner, Kyle Dockery, Troy Lawson and John French received plaques from HFD and shadow boxes from the Huntsville Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Kyle Dockery, David Warner and John French

Late in the fall semester at Sam Houston State University, a call came through HFD in the wee hours of the morning. A fire alarm was triggered at a dorm on campus.

“The building was full of smoke — a wall four or five feet high,” said Fire Chief Tom Grisham. “The alarm was going off, and the sprinkler system had been activated.

“On a secondary search, they went through the bedrooms and came across one where the door was shut. There was a student in his bed with a sleeping bag over his head. Dockery and Warner pulled the guy out.”

French was working the pumper truck on the exterior of the building.

“In my opinion, we got the best results from good training and knowledge of the fire station and the equipment,” Grisham said. “It all paid off that night. I am very proud of them, and I am so glad we have people in this community who volunteer.”

Troy Lawson

In May 2005, the rain was falling hard in Walker County, and volunteer Troy Lawson of Dodge was coming into Huntsville for the day with his children. He heard of a wreck on the scanner and knew he was closer than anyone to respond.

“A car slid off the road into a ravine,” Grisham said. “When he sees it, just the top of the car was sticking out of the water. He hears the lady beating on the top, and with disregard for his own safety, goes out to the car. He realizes he can’t get in because the doors won’t open.”

Lawson had no way of knowing the woman trapped was pregnant, but he knew through extensive fire department training to break out the back windshield — the only one not laminated.

“He got that girl out,” Grisham said. “And I know for sure she would have drowned. The baby’s been born now and is doing fine. In my opinion, he saved two lives that day.

“Troy is a true hero, but I’m not saying he did the right thing. He had no life jacket or safety equipment, but he knew he could not stand there and watch her drown. He was trained in auto extraction. We all are, and we’re good at it. Rarely do we have the opportunity to do what that guy did. He was in the right place at the right time.”

Grisham said the Hero Awards were one way to honor those in the department who were not just volunteers, but who went above and beyond the call of duty.

“I’ve been here 30 years,” he said. “I’ve only seen (life-saving) done three or four times in my career, and it’s happened twice in the last year.

“I’m proud of the entire department, and I’m always on the lookout for those (heroes). I don’t push the guys into risking their lives because every one of them is an asset to the department and I don’t want them taking unnecessary risks. They should all be recognized.”

Service Awards

In 2005, the following members of HFD were honored for years of service:

Assistant Chief John Hobbs — 30 years

Greg Mathis — 15 years

Tim Stafford — 10 years (volunteer)

Jeff Allen — 5 years (volunteer)

John Fuller — 5 years (volunteer)

Troy Lawson — 5 years (volunteer)

Jeremy O’Neill — 5 years (volunteer)

John French — 5 years (volunteer)

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