MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The St. Paul Fire Chief praised several firefighters Tuesday morning for a job well done over the summer.
Chief Tim Butler also presented the department’s highest honor for civilians to a teenager.
The Meritorious Service Award is for demonstrating courage in dangerous conditions.
Ricardo Martinez, 16, received it for pulling a man out of burning house in late July.
In the early morning hours, Martinez and his friends noticed a fire at a neighbor’s home on Goodrich Avenue.
“It was a long, hot night. A lot of fire, explosions going off inside of the house,” said Fire Captain Sean Lofgren.
Outside the house, as firefighters were on the way, Martinez made a critical decision.
“I had to do something, or what would happen?” Martinez said. “I just had to think fast in the moment.”
He told reporters that adrenaline kicked in and he overcame his fear. Chief Butler described Martinez’s brave actions that day as he presented him with the award.
“You tried to make entry into the burning building through the front door, but you were beaten back by the heat and smoke,” Butler said. “You heard voices coming from the second floor window. Using a ladder that others brought to the house, you climbed onto the porch roof, and with your shirt over your face to block the smoke, you were able to reach in and get Richard [Stauch] out through the window.”
Martinez pointed firefighters in the direction of where he heard the second man’s voice, helping them locate Louis Stauch faster.
Stauch was at the awards ceremony.
“I remember trying to get out the window. I couldn’t knock the screen out. That’s the last I remember,” Stauch said. “I woke up in the hospital.”
The fire chief also presented an award to members of Engine Company 10, who rescued Stauch and tended to the victims until an ambulance arrived.
“I got all these phone calls and they’re like ‘You’re a hero,’ and I’m like, ‘That feels good,'” Ricardo said.
He will be a junior at Highland Park High School this fall.
The fire chief gave letters of commendation to two other young people: Joshua Hoover and Jackie Venable. They ran inside the burning house to search for victims, but had to retreat.
The man Ricardo pulled out, Richard Stauch, is still in the hospital. He’s in critical condition from smoke inhalation and severe burns.
Louis Stauch says his brother is getting better.
The fire investigation later revealed that the fire was deliberately set. The woman believed to be responsible for the arson has been charged and is awaiting trial.
Investigators say she was the former girlfriend of the landlord.