FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 14, 2023 — The Andover City Council recognized Andover fire crews at Tuesday night’s Council meeting for receiving the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s 2023 Tom McGaughey Fire Service Award. Each year, the Office of the State Fire Marshal joins with the Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs and Kansas State Firefighters Association to honor a firefighter or team of firefighters for heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty.
After being nominated by Andover Fire-Rescue Chief Chad Russell, Engine 16 and Ladder 15 members were selected for this year’s Tom McGaughey Fire Service Award for their heroic actions and the rescue of two individuals with special needs from a structure fire earlier this year.
Engine 16 includes: Lieutenant John Gabriel, and firefighters Kevin Taylor, Jason Emley and Caleb Fistler. Ladder 15 includes: Captain Chad Cheslic and firefighter Skyler Aikens.
Andover Fire crews responded to a house fire with multiple people trapped on May 1. They arrived to find a well-involved, single-family residence with neighbors confirming two elderly individuals with limited mobility were trapped in the home.
Engine 16 arrived and initiated immediate search with a hand line. Crews found heavy dark smoke banked down more than 70 percent of the room height, and flame beginning to enter the living room space from both the kitchen and formal dining area. Firefighter Taylor operated the line protecting the access path to the basement, Lt. Gabriel located the basement stairs and went down finding one individual unable to escape. He then moved the individual up the stairs where he was assisted by firefighter Fistler in getting the patient into the care of other responders on scene. That individual was transported to the burn center in Wichita for smoke inhalation and minor burns. Gabriel and Fistler returned to the attack line, where they continued the search for the other occupant.
Simultaneously, the Ladder 15 crew had passed the engine crew and was crawling on their stomachs, trying to make it down the hallway to the back bedroom. Captain Cheslic realized they were not going to be able to make it down the hallway and made the decision to pull his crew out of the front door.
After quickly retrieving the Vent Enter Search ladder, they made entry into the northeast bedroom window. Cheslic and firefighter Aikens vented the window, finding dense smoke throughout the room. They quickly located the other victim near the middle of the room and removed the patient through the window, where CPR and advanced care by Butler County EMS was initiated. The 2nd patient was transported to Kansas Medical Center and, unfortunately, later passed away. “These crews took quick, decisive action, with minimum staffing and at great risk to their own safety,” Chief Russell said. “The burns on their turnout gear were a testament to the extreme heat faced by both crews. Assisting fire agencies were coming from Rose Hill, Wichita and Sedgwick County, but both victims were located and removed from the structure before that assistance arrived.”
While search and rescue is not above and beyond the call for any Kansas firefighter, to do so with such minimal staffing and under such extreme heat conditions is what make this rescue exceptional.
“Every year, the McGaughey Award recognizes acts of heroism by Kansas firefighters,” State Fire Marshal Mark Engholm said. “It is important that we take a moment every so often to pay tribute to the sacrifices our fire service personnel make each and every day, and I was honored to present this year’s award to the Andover crews.”
The Tom McGaughey Fire Service Award allows for an individual firefighter or crew to be recognized for their acts above and beyond their basic duties and responsibilities, and for exemplifying the finest traditions of the fire service. Congratulations Engine 16 and Ladder 15 of the Andover Fire-Rescue Department.
Photo Caption: Andover Fire-Rescue Engine 16 and Ladder 15 Crew Members (from left): Lieutenant John Gabriel, Firefighter Kevin Taylor, Firefighter Jason Emley, Firefighter Caleb Fistler, Captain Chad Cheslic and Firefighter Skyler Aikens, receive the Tom McGaughey Fire Service Award at the Dec. 12 Andover City Council Meeting.