Houston & Peach

Three weeks on the job, rookie firefighters save a life

From left, Warner Robins firefighters Russell Oakley, Justin Sadler, Shelby Wilkes and Patrick Mobley hold the Lifesaving Valor Award they received for their actions on Aug. 28 in pulling a woman from a burning house.
From left, Warner Robins firefighters Russell Oakley, Justin Sadler, Shelby Wilkes and Patrick Mobley hold the Lifesaving Valor Award they received for their actions on Aug. 28 in pulling a woman from a burning house. wcrenshaw@macon.com

Four Warner Robins firefighters, including two rookies, were given the department’s highest honor Monday for saving a woman’s life.

Lt. Russell Oakley, engineer Justin Sadler, firefighter Shelby Wilkes and firefighter Patrick Mobley were given the department’s Lifesaving Valor Award for their actions Aug. 28. Fire Chief Ross Moulton said they went in a burning apartment on Ignico Drive, quickly put out the blaze then found an unconscious 20-year-old woman.

The fire, caused by burning grease in the kitchen, left the home so smokey that they had to find the woman by feeling with their hands. They found her within two minutes.

Wilkes and Mobley had been on the job for only three weeks at the time.

Oakley and the two rookies went inside the home while Sadler manned the pump outside.

“I had full faith in them, and they didn’t let me down whatsoever,” Oakley said when asked how he felt about going inside the burning apartment with two rookies. “They performed flawlessly.”

They pulled the woman, Chanticia Denise Harris, outside and paramedics on the scene, as well as the firefighters, began treating her. She was in Houston Healthcare for several days, Moulton said, then transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta with burned lungs. He said she is out now and “in good condition.”

Moulton said only a few people in the department have the award. The last time it was given was in 2013. Mayor Randy Toms, who was a firefighter for 27 years, and Councilman Mike Davis, a firefighter for 32 years, both said they never got one.

Oakley, who has been with the department for 17 years, said the award means a lot to him because he has pulled dead people out of burned homes before but this is the first time he had been part of saving a life.

“It’s very gratifying knowing that we were able to make a difference,” Oakley said.

Oakley said a couple of weeks after she returned home, they went to another fire at Cedar Pointe that was just across from Harris’ apartment. They went over the check on her.

“She was very appreciative,” Oakley said.

Harris could not be reached Monday night.

Retiring Warner Robins Fire Chief Robert Singletary says sacrifices required to be successful in the fire service, but pays off in the long run. Singletary also shares some firefighting memorabilia.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1

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