When three Esquimalt firefighters plunged into the waters of the Gorge Waterway to attend to a drowning person in 2015, receiving an award was the furthest thing from their minds. They were after all, just doing their job.
But Fire Chief Chris Jancowski felt otherwise.
He nominated Capt. Troy Saldana and firefighters Jason Hutchinson and Morgan Williams for Governor General’s Awards after saving the life of an 82-year-old man who was in distress when crews arrived to the Tillicum Bridge at 5:30 p.m. on April 16, 2015.
“The person in the water appeared to be unconscious and face down,” Jancowski said Monday in a presentation to council. “Acting Asst. Chief Troy Saldana made a critical split-second decision to enter the water and [begin] the rescue.”
Hutchinson and Williams swam out to assist Saldana, who by then was administering CPR in the water.
Jancowski stressed that although he offered his colleague’s names for consideration, it was a vote by the Canadian Decorations Advisory Committee that ultimately decided their actions were deemed notable.
The chief said it was an extreme privilege to present Saldana and Hutchinson with their awards at the meeting, calling their actions “heroic.” They and Williams, who was unable to attend, received a Certificate of Commendation, “in recognition of those who made a significant contribution to providing assistance to other persons in a selfless manner.”
“It’s always nice to recognized for your actions,” said Saldana, a 14-year veteran of the department. “We don’t do this job to be recognized. Day to day we see the effects of what we do, [but] to get recognized afterward by the Governor General – it’s gratifying.”
Members of Esquimalt Fire and Rescue lined the back of council’s chambers in support of their fellow firefighters.
“It’s a great honour and to have my family here and have the fire guys show up,” Hutchinson said. A member of the department since 2004, he remembers running on adrenaline that day, relying on his training and thinking fast. “We just went into the water and thankfully it was a good outcome.”