Springtime is rolling around, and here at the Wayne Township Trustee Office we are doing spring things like cleaning carpets and putting fresh paint on the walls, changing the seasonal items in the Clothing Emporium and replacing our office lights with a more efficient and economical system. This is the time of year that we test our alarm systems and run drills to make sure everyone is on board with our Emergency Preparedness Plan since spring in Indiana can bring some pretty wild weather conditions.
This past winter we were reminded of the importance of emergency preparedness when Trustee Austin Knox’s brother was called into action while on duty with the Fort Wayne Fire Department. On the afternoon of December 24th, Andrew Knox, 33, who has been a firefighter for the past two years, was on duty when a call came in that a 10-year-old child had ridden his bike onto an iced-over pond in front of the Colony Bay Apartments on Covington Road. The ice had given way, and the boy was in the water.
The crew jumped into action, and Firefighter Knox was already well into a survival suit by the end of the dispatch call. He and the crew were on the scene in two minutes after racing from Fire Station 17 at 1910 Getz Road.
Upon arrival the crew found the boy treading water 14 feet to 20 feet from the shore in water that was about 6 feet deep. They threw a rescue rope but the child was unable to grab it.
“He was clearly struggling,” Knox said. “… treading water and at the point where he was starting to get tired.”
Without a second thought Knox took action. Breaking through the ice, he entered the water, reached the boy and brought him back to shore.
Fort Wayne Fire Chief Eric Lahey said at a news conference on February 25th when Knox and his crew mates were presented citations for their actions in the rescue, “The medics said just a few more minutes, the child would be done because he had such a low core temperature.”
Mayor Tom Henry said he couldn’t thank the firefighters enough for stepping into harm’s way. “The chief kind of glossed over how much danger this child was in. He was knocking on death’s door,” Henry said.
Knox said “It doesn’t really strike you as a high-intensity situation because your body reacts like how you were trained…We train so much for situations like this. We were prepared before the call came in.”
For Chief Lahey the success of the operation shows how valuable the city’s continuing investment in training really is. The impact on the firefighters, he said, is that, “They don’t think about it. They jump right in.”
Capt. Tom Hattery, Lt. Robert Roy, and Firefighters Donny Boliva, Kevin Witzenbruder, Dave Keim and Michael Miller were the other Station 17 members who responded that day and were also awarded citations.
While we like to think of our first responders as heroes—after all, because of their actions somebody’s child is alive and well and ready to bike into spring—it is just as important to credit our civic leaders for placing such a high value on training and preparedness. That’s what sets the stage for the courageous among us to do what comes naturally and bring about a positive outcome for the community at large.