PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Just over one year ago, a Gallia County man selflessly saved the life of a mother and her son from a fire that quickly engulfed their home — a feat that might have quietly been forgotten by the residents of the area, but not by Fire Chief Keith Elliott and the firefighters of the Gallipolis Police Department who nominated this hero for the Carnegie Medal.
The Carnegie Hero Fund announced earlier this month that 22 individuals have been named as recipients of the esteemed Carnegie Medal, an award given throughout the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Among these 22 individuals was Christopher E. Williams, 35, of Gallipolis, who was selected due to his actions on October 10, 2012, at a house fire on Fraley drive, actions which directly lead to the saving of two lives.
Reportedly, on the morning of October 10, 2012, Williams, who was a resident of Fraley Drive in Gallipolis, observed smoke emitting from his neighbor’s mobile home. Knowing that the home was occupied, Williams began beating on the doors in an attempt to alert the residents. Upon hearing Chrystal Reeves attempting to get out of the home, Williams forced open the back door and pulled Reeves to safety. Williams also made entry into the burning home twice to search for Samuel Durst, age 3. Upon a second attempt, Williams located the toddler in the bedroom hallway and carried him outside to safety.
Thinking that a second child may be inside, Williams re-entered the burning home several times until learning that everyone had escaped.
“To be nominated for this award is a great honor. To be one of the 22 individuals from the United States and Canada to have been chosen to receive the Carnegie Medal is just off the charts,” Elliott said. “We congratulate Christopher on receiving this prestigious award and thank him for his service to the community.”
According to Elliott, the home on Fraley Drive was not equipped with working smoke detectors and, while thanks to Williams’ heroic actions, no one was injured in this dangerous fire, the fire chief stressed the importance of having working smoke detectors in every home.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important having working smoke detectors are to saving lives. In house fires, many people falsely believe they have a few minutes to escape, when in reality they may only have a few seconds,” Elliott said. “Having the earliest warning possible is the key to surviving a fire.”
The 22 heroes who were announced bring the number of awards made to 9,633 since the Pittsburgh-based fund’s inception in 1904. Commission President Mark Laskow stated that each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 109 years since the Fund was established by industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, more than $35.4 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance. The awardees are:
Thomas St. John Harding, Mays Landing, N.J.; William Smith, Fairview, N.J.; David B. Mayo, Tecumseh, Ont.; Marcelino M. Orozco, Long Beach, Calif.; Jeffery Scott Dinkins, deceased, Lewisville, N.C.; Clarence M. Brooks, Jr.; Highland Village, Texas; Kevin Pratt, Milwaukie, Ore.; Nicholas A. Hays, East Wenatchee, Wash.; Bradley A. Bowman, Mablevale, Ark.; James Philip Snider, Clarksville, Tenn.; Peter Weatherford, Clarksville, Tenn.; John Nash Hale, Toms River, N.J.; Steven M. Enns, Estevan, Sask.; Jeremy Day, Sidney, Maine; Patrick J. Rimoshytus, Warren, R.I.; John Cody Clarke, Vancouver, Wash.; Christopher E. Williams, Gallipolis, Ohio; Thomas R. Nielsen, Louisville, Ky.; James B. Terry, Jeffersonville, Ind.; Pierre Johnson, Brooklyn Park, Minn.; Brian D. Lozier, Sterling, N.Y.; Warren L. Wood, Jr., Crozet, Va.
For further information on the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and for more detailed accounts of the heroic acts performed by this aforementioned awardees, visit www.carnegiehero.org.