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Honoring the heroes among us

Wed., Nov. 9, 2005

Hometown heroes come in all genders, ages and species in the Inland Northwest.

Today, the Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross will honor more than 20 people for life-saving acts – from the day in and day out dedication of Clark Fork, Idaho’s, volunteer emergency medical technicians to a black Labrador retriever in Spokane who saved her owner from a house fire – with the annual Honoring Hometown Heroes luncheon at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

With the exception perhaps of Midnight the dog, this year’s youngest recipient is Caden Rogers, an 8-year-old Cub Scout, who saved the life of senior citizen Billie Gatlin, who lives near Caden’s school, Brown Elementary in Spokane.

Caden was going door to door for his Cub Scout troop selling popcorn on Oct. 2 when he came to Gatlin’s house, said his grandmother Colleen Dunigan.

The sidewalk to the front door was obscured by bushes and trees, so he went around to the side door.

“He went up to this house and knocked on the screen door only to see a lady laying on the floor and saying in a low voice, ‘Help, help,’ ” Dunigan said.

Caden said he was scared and ran to tell his grandmother, who called 911. Gatlin had fallen about 5 a.m., Dunigan learned later, and Caden found her about 10:30 a.m., hypothermic and unable to get up.

“She said she was very cold and concerned about surviving the cold,” Dunigan said. Caden didn’t want to leave until he was assured by a firefighter that Gatlin would be OK.

Since then, he’s gone back twice to see Gatlin, who told Caden she would never forget his face as long as she lives.

One of the most dramatic stories of the past year was the June 5 rescue of a 7-year-old boy from a canoe that was wrapped around a bridge abutment in the Spokane River near People’s Park.

Spokane Fire Lt. Brian Faulkner’s technical rescue team pulled the boy, Benjamin Morin, from the river within about 15 minutes of arriving.

The rescue was particularly difficult because Benjamin was trapped in the submerged canoe. A separate line attached to the canoe lifted it from the river while firefighter Calvin Groth snagged the boy before he washed downriver.

“He did a pretty amazing grab just getting the boy,” Faulkner said. Benjamin has not yet recovered from the near-drowning, Faulkner said.

Sometimes the heroics are less dramatic.

The Clark Fork Valley Ambulance Team has five volunteer EMTs who take turns being on call 24 hours a day to respond to medical emergencies from the Montana border to the Pack River.

“Without them, they would have to wait about 45 minutes for the next ambulatory service to arrive,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Abi Weaver. “We thought it was quite amazing that they built this service from the ground up because the community had a need.”

Volunteer Nadine Stotts said a few students are taking EMT classes now in Clark Fork: “I hope they pass the test and help us out,” she said.

Following are the other award recipients.

“ Dick Reigel of Deer Park and former Spokane Chiefs coach Al Conroy, who each used abdominal thrusts to prevent people from choking to death.

“ Shavonn Rinne, Becky Jensen and Staff Sgt. Gabriel Schaefer, who all reacted quickly to protect and get medical care for seizure victims in Spokane.

“ Chuck Rinck of north Spokane, who saved two 4-year-old boys who were critically burned in his neighbor’s yard. The boys were playing on a slide that firefighters believe they lubricated with gasoline.

“ Spokane Police Officer Kevin Keller, who stopped a suicidal man who was driving down a steep embankment toward Hangman Creek with unsuspecting citizens in his path.

“ Debbie Pierce, who saved a fellow Inland Northwest kayaker while they were ocean kayaking off the Olympic Peninsula.

“ Midnight the dog, who woke up her owner, Mark Anderson, in January when a fire started in their Spokane home. They escaped through a window.


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