Four Ontario firefighters receive bravery medals

November 22, 2013
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Nov. 22, 2013, Toronto – Three firefighters from Barrie, Ont., were presented the Ontario Medal for Firefighter Bravery Thursday for their part in a dramatic rescue of 27 fishermen from an ice floe and two firefighters who had fallen through the ice. A fourth firefighter, from Pelham, Ont., received the medal for his actions in rescuing a girl who had been attacked by three dogs.

On March 9, 2012, firefighters John Cargoe, Benjamin LeRoux and Matthew Richard Monkman of the Barrie Fire and Emergency Service responded to a call from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), requesting assistance with the rescue of 27 fishermen who became stranded on a deteriorating ice floe after a day of ice fishing on Lake Simcoe.

The firefighters gave up their seats on the rescue boat to three of the fishermen and boarded the ice floe. The remaining fishermen were loaded into an OPP helicopter, two at a time. Once all the fishermen were rescued, the firefighters went to the aid of two firefighters from a neighbouring department who had fallen through the breaking ice.

By the time Cargoe, LeRoux and Monkman were helped from the ice by York Region Police, the floe had broken into small pieces of ice that could no longer support the firefighters.

The Pelham Fire Services, on Oct. 12, 2012, received a call for help from a family whose daughter was being attacked by three dogs. The girl entered the family barn to play with a new litter of puppies, which had been separated from their parents. An adult female dog, however, remained unnoticed with the pups. Two other adult dogs entered the barn, and the three dogs attacked the girl. The girl’s mother attempted to fend off the dogs, but they were too aggressive.

Fire Chief Robert Lymburner, who lives close to the scene, was the first to arrive. As he entered the family barn, he could see the attack. Lymburner made loud noises in an attempt to scare the dogs away. After successfully chasing one of the dogs out of the barn, he returned and physically engaged with the remaining two dogs to stop the attack and rescue the girl.

“I didn't have a choice,” Lymburner said in an interview Friday. “You just get her out or she's not gong to survive.”

The executive director of the local Humane Society said that he had never seen an attack of this magnitude. The girl was taken to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Lymburner said receiving the award was overwhelming and an honour, but that the real hero in this situation is the girl.

“She's recovered quite well,” he said, “but she's still going to have to live with those emotional and physical scars.

“If you want to know who’s the real hero, who’s strong – she's strong.”

The Ontario Medal for Firefighter Bravery was established in 1976 and is awarded annually to firefighters who show exceptional service to their communities. Since its inception, the province has awarded the medal to 201 firefighters. Lt.-Gov. David Onley presented this year’s recipients with the award in a ceremony at Queen’s Park on Thursday evening.

Fourteen police officers were presented Thursday with the similar Ontario Medal for Police Bravery.

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