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London, Ont., firefighters honoured with Ontario Medal of Bravery

Eleven firefighters received the Ontario Medal of Bravery for their roles in the responses to a 2019 explosion at a home and a 2020 building collapse that claimed the lives of two construction workers. London Fire Department

Eleven London firefighters have been honoured with one of the highest awards for Ontario firefighters, the Medal of Bravery.

The medal was created in 1976 to recognize acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.

The firefighters were presented the awards Thursday at Queen’s Park in Toronto by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Capt. Randy Evans, Capt. Dave Smith, senior qualified firefighter Simon Mackintosh, firefighter apparatus operator Matt Davis, and firefighters Alex Clements,  Ryan Kruk, and  Thomas Wenhardt were recognized for their life-saving actions after a car crashed into a house at 450 Woodman Ave. on August 14, 2019, struck a gas line, and set off a massive explosion.

Capt. Ron Vermeltfoort, Acting Capt. Andrew Cadieux, firefighter James Ferraro, and firefighter Stephen Hilton were recognized for taking life-saving actions as first responders at the partial building collapse at 555 Teeple Terr. on Dec. 11, 2020.

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“It is most fitting these firefighters are recognized today for their brave and selfless action, and is also a poignant reminder of how fortunate we are as Londoners to have such dedicated and brave members working to keep us safe — each and every day,” London Mayor Josh Morgan said.

“On behalf of London City Council, and all Londoners, our deepest thanks for your selfless and life-saving actions at these two devastating and life-altering incidents that affected our whole city.”

The building collapse at Teeple Terr. claimed the lives of two construction workers and injured four.

Capt. Vermelfoort recounted that the response to the collapse lasted five hours, and the most important part was relaying information to new arrivals on scene.

“You have to collect as much information as possible in a very short time, communicate that information to the other firefighters that are on their way there, then take immediate measures to stabilize the scene as much as you can.”

“Those initial moments, you just have to rely on your training and abilities and resolve to stabilize things,” Vermelfoort said.

He also said that receiving the award was humbling and a huge honour, but that the award is a collective award for everyone who responded to the events.

“Any positive outcomes for major events like this do not happen without collective team effort,” Vermelfoort said.

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“We felt we were representing everyone that was involved that day, because we’re just a part of it.”

Vermelfoort added that while accolades are a nice, it’s enough of a reward to dedicate your life to helping people.

“The pride and professionalism of the London Fire Department is something to trust in and embrace and we’ll always have the backs of Londoners regardless of the situation they find themselves in.”

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