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Firefighter courage is stronger than instinct and larger than fear. It derives from confidence and compassion. It lies silent but is always ready. Courage is indeed the spark that illuminates the firefighter.

September 10, 1998

Fireman awarded for saving 3, but says it's just part of the job

The desire to be a firefighter has always lived in Gabriel Medrano's soul. But don't ask him to explain why. He can't. "It's not really a reason, it's more of a feeling," he said. Medrano recalls having to answer this seemingly simple question as one of the hoops he had to jump through in order to become a reserve fireman for the Tolleson Fire Department.

Obviously he said the right thing to pass his oral boards. But Madrano did a lot more than talk on the afternoon of June 30 when he flew into action to save a woman and her two daughters from a canal's rough current.

This was the deed that earned him the 1998 United Fire Fire fighter of the Year Award. For Medrano, the day was just like any other. He had just come from a training session and was approaching the intersection of 91st Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix. He saw a red car pulled off to the side, but because the woman in the vehicle was talking and moving her hands he assumed everything was OK. However, he looked to the other side of the road near the canal and saw a crowd of people gathered and more running toward the area.

Medrano's experience with the fire department told him that the canal's currents and position next to a well-traveled road made it a trouble spot for accidents. He ran over and saw three heads bobbing up and down in the throws of the canal's current.

Medrano looked at the crowd around him. No one moved. No one even attempted to rescue the driver Erna Anderson, 61, and her two children Veronika, 11, and Devion, 9, who had been tossed into the canal after their car collided with another vehicle.

"It must have been brainlock, or something that kept people from doing something," Medrano said. There was no hesitation. Gabriel new what had to  be done. Medrano edged down the slanted canal bank, holding on to a strap held by a man in the crowd who was on the canal bank. One by one he grabbed all three and pulled them to safety!

What made it extra special was that he took the next step. He traveled with (Anderson) to the hospital, advised paramedics of her medical history, called her husband...he did things beyond just saving them.

Medrano's acts exemplifies the best of the men and woman of the fire service who do more than simply battle flames!

1998 WINNER: Gabriel Medrano

Tolleson Fire Department


Gabriel Medrano (right) being presented the 1998 FFOTY Award from Daniel Matlick, President of United Fire.