A group of Hood River emergency services and law enforcement officers, and a private citizen, have been given a state Medal of Valor honor for the August 2018 rescue of a Hood River man from his burning home.
The Medal of Valor from Oregon Health Authority’s Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System Program recognizes “acts of personal valor or heroism in the delivery of emergency medical care, which results in the saving of a life under extreme conditions and in extraordinary circumstances,” according to OHA.
The incident was the fire in the home of Bob and MaryJane Buckley, life-long residents of Hood River who had celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2018.
According to Hood River Fire and EMS Chief Leonard Damian, on the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2018, Scott Tennant, an off-duty Lieutenant firefighter, was at a home when he noticed smoke coming a home nearby.
The fire started on the exterior and worked its way into the attic on a windy day, which caused the fire to grow quickly, providing little time to remove two elderly people (one on hospice care), their granddaughter and a hospice nurse from the home.
Tennant was able to call in the fire and determine there were victims inside, which prepared the crews arriving from Hood River Fire & EMS.
Tennant and John Blosser were able to assist the hospice nurse to remove the elderly female, with Tennant taking command to allow the fire crews to focus on an impending rescue.
Prior to the arrival of any fire unit, Hood River Sheriff’s Deputy Adam VandenBos, Hood River Police Officers Houston Webb and Erin Mason arrived, attempting entry through the front door.
With heavy black smoke pushing from the door, the officers attempted to crawl along the floor, allowing them to enter only short distance causing them to exit and attempt again. Upon exiting the home, they were met by Captain Clay McCrea and Engineer Jason Wilkins and let them know the male’s location inside.
McCrea and Wilkins made their way to the back bedroom, locating the male and closing the door behind them. The firefighters then removed the elderly male out the window to the awaiting police officers outside — later exiting the home via the same window as conditions rapidly deteriorated.
From a Hood River News account in August 2018:
According to the Buckley family, Mary Jane got out the front door of the house with an assist from her granddaughter, Stephanie Delgado, but Bob was briefly trapped, fortunately near a window, and was removed through the window by firefighters inside and law enforcement officers outside.
“He told me, right after they got him out, ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,’” his son, Jeff, said. Then, he said Bob told him, “You’ve been doing a good job with me, and it looks like you’re gonna do a little more.”
Bob Buckley spent several days in the hospital after a fall, and when complications set in, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, from which doctors told him he would not recover. Mary Jane had been residing at Hawk’s Ridge Assisted Living. Bob then chose to be taken home for his final days, and from Aug. 8-11, the Buckleys were together in their home, with a hospice nurse.
Then the fire happened.
Buckley said he had been at the home that day until about 10 a.m., and his son, Dallas, was driving nearby and saw people pointing toward his grandparents’ house, and then saw the smoke. He tried to go inside the house; crews were on the way at the time.
The fire apparently started on the south exterior wall. Very quickly, however, smoke that had been trapped between the ceiling and roof filled the living space. The Buckleys were rescued shortly before the roof collapsed.
Jeff Buckley got there as smoke was billowing through the front door and said, “Somebody’s got to help, my parents are in there!” and then saw his mother coming out, Delgado just behind her.
In the 2018 news article, Buckley credited the fire rescue were Delgado, police officers Mason and Webb and deputy VandenBosch, and a young boy named Sam, who alerted neighbors.