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Heroic acts earn fire department commendation
Running into a burning building takes quite a bit of courage, especially when not wearing any rescue gear.
Responding on Jan. 31 to a 911 call reporting a house fire at 976 Earl St., two doctors from Regions Hospital risked their lives to save a 17-year-old girl.
The lifesaving efforts of emergency room physician Dr. Bjorn Peterson and Dr. R.J. Frascone, medical director for St. Paul’s paramedic program, were honored on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Fire chief Timothy Butler, on behalf of the St. Paul Fire Department, bestowed upon the two heroes the Meritorious Service Award.
The honor recognizes the doctors’ willingness to go beyond the call of duty at the risk of endangering themselves.
Firefighters contributing to the response on the afternoon of Jan. 31 were also recognized during the ceremony at Fire Station 7 in the East Side’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood.
Regions Hospital provides medical direction to the St. Paul Fire Department. Standard procedure for licensing physicians involves responding to house fires.
“We work so closely together that at times it’s difficult to discern a line between St. Paul Fire and Regions EMS,” Butler said.
Atypical, though, is medical professionals entering a burning building.
Battling flames and heavy smoke throughout the two-story, single-family residence, firefighters discovered the unconscious body of a girl in bed on the second floor.
Resuscitation efforts were begun downstairs, even as the fire continued to rage. Drastically low temperatures prevented removing the girl outdoors.
Ignoring their personal safety, Peterson and Frascone entered the house to direct life-saving intervention and assist with emergency care.
After five minutes of CPR and the help of a breathing tube, the young girl’s heartbeat and breathing were restored.
“I just want to say what an incredible privilege it is to work with the St. Paul Fire Department,” Frascone told the crowd. “Their efforts never cease to amaze me. Even after 28 years, it really was a sight to be seen these guys in full turnout gear doing absolutely perfect CPR.”
“It was an example of how things can work when everybody cooperates. And once again it all starts with having the best ambulance service in the country right here in St. Paul,” added Frascone in his remarks upon receiving the Meritorious Service Award.
A longtime partner of the St. Paul Fire Department, Frascone has served as the paramedic program medical director for 28 years.
Peterson was unable to attend the Feb. 26 Fire Station 7 ceremony.
Members of the Fire Department recognized for their lifesaving work included: Engine Company 7 - B shift; fire captains Mike Hamburger and Neil Youngblom; firefighters Andrew Pawlitschek, Daniel Pierskalla and Jason Saver; the Engine/Medic 24 - B shift, and district fire chief Floyd LeCuyer.
“Firefighting is a team effort. It takes the dedication, cooperation, and integration of every person and every crew on scene to achieve a successful outcome and to save lives and property,” Butler said.
Engine Company 7 - B shift crew directly attacked the first-floor fire.
Pawlitschek, Pierskalla and Hamburger searched the smoke-filled second floor, found the girl on a bed, and carried her downstairs. She was not breathing and did not have a pulse.
An emergency medical technician and paramedic, respectively, Saver and Youngblom began resuscitation efforts in the living room.
Engine/Medic 24 - B Shift transported the young girl from the scene to Regions Hospital and later from Region’s to a hyperbaric chamber at Hennepin County Medical Center.
And, not to be forgotten, district fire chief Floyd LeCuyer coordinated the entire incident.
“Our crews put forth extraordinary strength and energy to handle the situation. Everyone took direction and followed protocol, which was especially paramount considering some people involved were not even regulars on the rigs,” said LeCuyer. “It is a humbling experience to serve the city of St. Paul in the nation’s finest fire department.”
A lighthearted affair
As is life at a fire station, an emergency call for help interrupted the Feb. 26 ceremony. The truck parked behind the podium hurried away leaving an audience in awe of the community heroes.
LeCuyer joked about the necessity of Fire Chief Butler honoring Frascone and Peterson. If not, LeCuyer may have had to write up a report on the doctors for entering a burning building.
A 15-year year veteran of the department, firefighter Jason Saver received a Letter of Commendation for his quick thinking and courageous actions in the life-and-death situation.
“It really is not about the award, but serving because, like me, you love the job,” said the aptly named Saver. “Working on the East Side is a wonderful experience, and the people are fantastic.”
Asked if they were any further comments he would like to share with the East Side community, Saver simply sought to say that the door to the fire department is always open, and residents are welcome to stop by.
Rebecca Rowe can be reached at email@example.com or at 651- 748-7816.
Did you know ...
The location of the Feb. 26 ceremony, Fire Station 7, was originally constructed in 1886 on Ross Avenue. In 1930, the building of the present-day structure was completed. It houses Engine 7 and Ladder 7.