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B.C. man recognized with bravery award for risking life to help save people from burning home

Click to play video: 'B.C. man recognized with bravery award for risking life to help save people from burning home' B.C. man recognized with bravery award for risking life to help save people from burning home
A Penticton man is being recognized with a bravery award for helping to save the lives of three people in a devastating house fire earlier this year. Global's Shelby Thom has more on what happened and why the rescuer also believes the experience saved his life. – Dec 16, 2020

A B.C. man is being recognized with a bravery award for risking his life to help save the lives of three people from a house fire earlier this year.

Gord Portman of Penticton was across the street from the residence at 76 Duncan Avenue East on March 28, when he noticed smoke billowing from the single-storey detached home.

Without hesitation, he jumped into action and went to investigate if anyone was trapped inside.

Read more: Two dead in Penticton condo complex fire

“I opened up the door and I banged on it and I could hear people inside screaming,” he said.

“Just unbelievable, so much smoke coming out of the house; the house was filled (with smoke).”

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Another bystander called 911. But instead of waiting for emergency crews to arrive, Portman entered the house while it was still on fire.

Click to play video: 'West Kelowna RCMP and fire department rescue man and two pets from poisoning' West Kelowna RCMP and fire department rescue man and two pets from poisoning
West Kelowna RCMP and fire department rescue man and two pets from poisoning – Dec 5, 2020

“I got on my belly, I turned around and I can’t even see the light; it was pitch black,” Portman said of the disorientating conditions.

“I got on my hands and knees, I crawled around and found the man. I pulled him towards the door and had to let go three times to get air, and I ran back in the house.”

The scene of a house fire on Duncan Avenue East in March 2020. Mike Biden

By then, a police officer arrived and assisted Portman with pulling the man from the burning structure. His daughter was still inside the home.

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“I told the fire department that there was a girl inside within 15 feet of the door screaming, and now she’s unresponsive. So they ran in, they found the girl, they brought her out and they started resuscitating her here for 20 minutes.”

Read more: Three taken to hospital from Penticton house fire

A third person also managed to escape the inferno.

Portman said he has no regrets risking his life to save the lives of strangers.

“I would do it for anybody.”

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Kelowna Fire Department gives virtual tour – Nov 17, 2020

Portman was recently awarded the silver medal from the Royal Canadian Humane Association (RCHA) for his heroic act of bravery.

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Another bystander, Robert Madden who worked at the nearby A&W and assisted in response efforts, also received an award.

The Royal Humane Society, its parent organization, was instituted and incorporated by the Royal Charter in London, England in 1774.

The RCHA recognizes and awards acts of bravery and lifesaving throughout Canada and the Commonwealth.

First responders resuscitate a person pulled from a house fire in March 2020. Mike Biden

The RCHA Awards are usually presented at an annual event and distributed by the respective Lieutenant Governor of that province.

Due to COVID19 protocols, Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., was unable to present the awards at a gathering, so the RCHA disseminated the honours to British Columbia recipients by mail this year.

Read more: Fire destroys home in Lake Country; 6 people displaced

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Retired police officer Adrian Marr of West Kelowna investigated Portman’s story for the association and recommended he receive the recognition.

“During this challenging time for our nation and the world, we bring about hope and promise of a better future when we recognize and celebrate unselfish acts of courage by citizens that inspire the best in all of us,” he said in an email.

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Travel trailer fire in Penticton backyard – Nov 3, 2020

“I saved a life and now I want to save my own life,” Portman said.

The former crystal-meth addict said the life-and-death experience encouraged him to enter a treatment and rehabilitation facility.

“It helped me get clean and sober,” he said.

He proudly showed off his award on Wednesday.

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“I feel honoured, it’s pretty special.”

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