The MDFR Marine Services unit operates Fireboat 1, a 50-foot floating command post, and the 36-foot Fireboat 2, along with 20 other vessels.

Miami-Dade Firefighter Wins Franklin Award

The highest IAFC individual honor for heroism is being presented today in Dallas to Firefighter Nicholas DiGiacomo for his role in the dramatic rescue of two people trapped inside a burning yacht.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Motorola, Inc. are presenting the International Benjamin Franklin Fire Service Award for Valor today to Firefighter Nicholas DiGiacomo of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue during the 136th Annual Fire-Rescue International in Dallas, Texas. The award, named for one of the first U.S. fire chiefs, is now in its 40th year and is the highest honor IAFC gives to an individual, honoring firefighters for heroism, expert training, leadership, and safe practices.

The incident for which DiGiacomo is being recognized happened March 31, 2008, when MDFR's Fireboat 1 responded to a call from the Coast Guard of a fire at the Miami Beach Marina. Two multimillion-dollar were engulfed in flames when the boat came on scene, and personnel heard screams from one yacht and saw hands frantically signaling from a porthole.

"Two people were trapped inside, with no way of escaping the inferno. Both were holed up in a bathroom below the main deck, running the shower to shield themselves from the heat, gasping for air through the porthole as heavy flames and high winds swept the boat," according to IAFC's account. "As fire raged on the yacht, Firefighter DiGiacomo and his officer in charge leapt aboard a private fishing boat that pulled alongside — the only vessel that could get close enough. Using a chainsaw and K-12 saw, they worked to open the fiberglass hull, which was extremely hard and difficult to cut. Seeing thick, heavy smoke swirling down to the victims, DiGiacomo immediately removed his mask and passed it through the porthole. He told the victims to breathe through it and share it. He then threaded a hose through the porthole and instructed them to use it to suppress the fire that was threatening their refuge. Time was running out as fire consumed the yacht. It began to sink and its portholes dipped dangerously close to the water line. Even worse, the victims had emptied the air bottle and their safe refuge was filling with boiling water. As they crouched on top of the bathroom vanity, Firefighter DiGiacomo hooked up a second bottle so they could breathe. After a long 40 minutes, the hull was breached and he pulled both victims to safety. Miraculously, they were okay and transferred to Mt. Sinai Medical Center in stable condition."

MDFR has won many accolades. The seventh-largest U.S. fire department with more than 2,500 firefighters, it responded to 233,080 emergency calls last year. It has been named Florida's 2009 EMS Provider of the Year by the Florida Department of Health, and its Advanced Life Support Team won the 2009 Bill Shearer International Advanced Life Support Competition. Firehouse Magazine ranked Aerial 19 from MDFR's North Miami West Fire Station 19 as the busiest ladder truck of 2008 in North America for having responded to 5,328 emergency calls that year. Engine 7 from MDFR's West Little River Station 7 was ranked 14th for responding to 4,602 emergency calls.

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