Officers and firefighters awarded for response to The Grove fire

From Staff Reports

Five Pullman firefighters and two Pullman Police officers received awards Sunday for their exceptional performances responding to the Grove Apartments fire that occurred in July.

Fire Chief Mike Heston presented the Distinguished Service Medal to police officer Wade Winegardner for capturing the license plate of a suspicious vehicle, which led to the arrest of an arson suspect.

Fire acting officer Andrew Howell, who arrived first at the scene of the fire, received the same award for exceptional leadership and performance.

“He started the ball rolling in the right direction and was instrumental in the whole thing,” Heston said.

Engineer Paul Heebink, who pumped water from Howell’s truck, received the award for exceptional performance in adverse conditions.

“Immediately he did a walk-around to get an initial plan,” Heston said. “He kept a cool, calm demeanor throughout the process.”

Firefighter Michael Chapman received the award for establishing an alternative water supply when several hydrants on the property were not working.

Firefighter Ben Gecas received the award for placing himself and an engine in a volatile situation that prevented the nearby Boulder Creek Apartments from catching fire and allowing for a safe evacuation, Heston said.

Reserve firefighter Ryan Palmberg demonstrated exceptional skill on his first structure fire as an engineer, Heston said.

Heston presented the Unit Medal of Valor to the shift of firefighters who responded to the fire. That shift included the five aforementioned officers as well as Capt. Don Foster and firefighters Erik Taylor, Brian Parrish, Chelsey Tadema and Patrick Domreis.

Heston also presented the Unit Medal of Valor to the fire investigating team, which included fire investigator Capt. Rich Dragoo, Pullman Police officer Chris Engle, WSU Police officer Darren Jones, and firefighters Anthony Nuttman, Erik Taylor and Reed McPherson.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson presented the Unit Medal of Valor to Heston for his professionalism, decisive leadership and calm demeanor in the extraordinary event, according to a press release.

A total of 34 personnel and 14 vehicles from several departments, including Moscow Fire, Colfax Fire and Whitman County Districts 11 and 12 responded to the incident.

“Once in a lifetime you get a call of that magnitude,” Heston said.