When Lynn Firefighter Ryan Newhall pulled up on a house fire this past March 13, he and Fire Lt. Sean Martin were more concerned about putting out some heavy flames than being awarded for heroism.
But that’s just what happened, as their poignant story of Newhall rescuing Martin from certain death was center stage in front of a conglomeration of the best firefighters in the state of Massachusetts.
The two were working side-by-side on a hose line when Martin stepped through a doorway and fell straight down into a basement where there had once been a staircase. The staircase was missing as the burning home had been undergoing renovations.
Martin – severely hurt and lying on the basement floor – put out a ‘Meyday’ call, the most serious call a firefighter can issue to his fellow jakes in the midst of fighting an inferno.
Newhall heard the call and quickly sprang into action.
He called for a portable ladder, and once he got it he climbed down into the basement while fire crews continued to focus on battling the fire. In minimal visibility, he was able to locate Martin and assess his injuries. After untangling him from some debris, he helped Martin to his feet.
Newhall then assisted Martin in going back up the portable ladder and outside to safety, where medical aid was waiting for Martin.
Martin’s injuries were to his shoulder and they were very severe. It required extensive leave to have surgery and rehabilitation. However, it was better than the alternative, and Martin and Newhall embraced on stage while Gov. Deval Patrick looked on.
It was the ultimate thank you from one jake to another – one who had saved a life, the other who was grateful for having kept his life.
For that, on Tuesday morning at the JFK Library in Dorchester, Newhall was awarded one of five state Medals of Valor given out this year for extraordinarily heroic acts.
The only higher statewide firefighting award is the Medal of Honor.
The awards came during the 25th Annual Firefighter of the Year Heroic Awards – an annual ceremony honoring above-and-beyond deeds performed by firefighters across the state.
“There is something special about a person drawn to this profession,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. “We talk a lot about heroes in our profession and being a hero is doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right place.”
Gov. Deval Patrick noted that many of the acts of heroism singled out at the awards happened while off-duty.
“Many of those we’re honoring today were off-duty when these incidents happened,” said Patrick. “For a firefighter, I’m not sure if there’s any such thing as off-duty.”
The ceremonies in Dorchester brought a huge contingent of Lynn Firefighters and their families.