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Firefighters lauded for saving man

City cites fire, police employees for work

POSTED: March 13, 2013 10:34 a.m.
Photo by Krystal Hart/

Hinesville Fire Department Lt. James Woodard, left, and firefighter Alan “Rowdy” Carson, right, pictured here with Carson’s wife, Tina, and daughter, Piper, pose for a photo with Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and members of the city council after receiving Medals of Valor on Thursday for their heroic actions, which saved a teenager and a dog from a house fire.

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Hinesville Fire Department Lt. James Woodard and firefighter Alan “Rowdy” Carson were so determined during a Jan. 25 structure fire to rescue the person trapped inside an Elm Street home that they agreed to enter the inferno before their water hoses were charged.
“The fire gets you … it’s a chill-bump when you get the ‘structure fire word’ and even different when you hear there’s a person inside …,” Woodard said Monday. “It puts you in a totally different mode because you know you’re fixing to go help another person.”
For their actions — which saved teenager Robert Godwin and an American bulldog named Mac Man — the Hinesville City Council on Thursday awarded the men with Medals of Valor.
Other city fire and police personnel involved in the blaze also were recognized. Mayor Jim Thomas named the police officers awarded, though they were not present due to working the night shift.  
While both men said they are grateful to receive the award, they insist they were just doing their jobs when dispatched to the fire around 4:45 a.m.
“When we arrived on scene, there were smoke and flames showing, and flames were probably showing about 15-20 feet in the air on top of the house, and we realized there was somebody inside the house. So before we even had the hose-line charged up for us, we went inside the house,” Carson said. He has been with the fire department about a year and a half and was a volunteer firefighter previously.
Upon entering, the men were met with flames and smoke that filled the room almost to the floor.
“I’ve been involved with several fires, but this is probably the wildest one I’ve been to,” Carson said. “You just think about what you need to do. We’re trained to do these sort-of things, and rescue is a part of our job. … Your training just pretty much goes into effect there. You just do what you’re supposed to do and you don’t really think about it that much.”
His wife, Tina, and their daughter Piper Reese, who was born Feb. 25, joined him in receiving the award.
When asked whether thoughts of his expectant wife or unborn child came into his mind during the rescue, Carson said there’s not “a whole lot of time to think about it.”
Woodard, a 13-year veteran, agreed.
“We’ve got a saying in the fire station: ‘You risk a lot for a lot, you risk a little for a little,’” Woodard said. As soon as they heard someone might be inside the burning house, his adrenaline kicked in.
“When you get the word of a person possibly trapped, it really makes you change your mode,” he said. “You make sure all your buckles are buckled and your fasteners are fastened … so I can go home after this.”
He said the men agreed on their approach — they headed toward the fire on the left side of the house — and after rescuing the teen, they went back into fight the flames before ammunition was ignited behind the men, who were standing in the hallway.
“You hear stories about it could hurt you, it couldn’t hurt you — you never know … so all you can think is the worst, that it could penetrate your protective clothing. It was interesting,” Woodard recalled.
Upon hearing the ammunition rounds, their captain called the men out of the home, Woodard said. They had to bust through a window to get out.
For Woodard, the fire and accompanying medal will stand out in his mind. But Carson views it a bit differently.
“That’s our job. That’s what we’ve got to do, and there’s no way I’d leave somebody inside the house to burn up,” Carson said. “And that’s what anybody else on my shift or at Hinesville Fire Department would have done … There are guys who work at the fire department every day alongside me — there are three shifts — and they’re worthy of just as much stuff as I’ve gotten. I’m not special.”

 

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