The deadly water taxi accident in March was among the emergencies remembered yesterday as the Baltimore City Fire Department recognized dozens of its members for heroism and outstanding service.
More than 1,000 people attended the city's 12th Firefighter/Paramedic Appreciation and Awards Day program in a banquet hall at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel - this one held on the eve of the local premiere of a movie fictionally depicting the lives and work of Baltimore firefighters.
Also highlighted was the Lakeview Towers high-rise apartment building fire near Druid Hill Park on Jan. 16 last year, which saw the rescue of several residents, many of them elderly, from smoke-filled floors and apartments.
The program was preceded by a video on the water taxi accident, in which five people died and 20 were rescued after the craft overturned off Fort McHenry during a sudden squall. Much of the video was recorded by the Fire Department during the 10-day effort to recover the dead, including a 6-year-old boy, under hazardous conditions.
Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. - in his remarks praising all of the day's honorees - recalled in particular standing at dockside as a firefighter involved in the search said, "I just want to bring that little boy up and wrap him in a blanket."
Receiving the department's Heroic Service Award medal for rescue and recovery efforts in that incident - at risk to their own lives - were Lt. Kenneth B. Hyde, coordinator of the hazardous materials task force, pump operator Samuel Burrell Jr. of Engine No. 29, emergency boat operator Robert Sebeck of Fireboat No. 1 and now-retired firefighter Bernard D. Muller.
More than 60 firefighters of all ranks were honored for their efforts in 18 dwelling fires, water rescues, vehicular rescues, assisting police in capturing suspects, investigating the causes of fires and rendering medical aid since the start of last year. Others were honored for community service.
Distinguished service awards went to Battalion Chiefs Frederick C. Ruff IV and Patrick J. Walsh, both of the Communications Division, for their part in coordinating manpower needs when rains from Tropical Storm Isabel a year ago flooded the police headquarters building basement and threatened to knock out power to police communications and the 911 system
"For 29 years as a member of the Fire Department, I've watched the men and women of this department perform heroic deeds," Goodwin said after a similar comment by Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The fictional depiction of Baltimore's firefighters - the motion picture Ladder 49 - will have its local premiere with a $200-a-ticket screening and reception at 8 tonight at the Senator Theatre, in a fund-raiser for the Baltimore City Fire Foundation.