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Firefighter saves life of assistant chief

April 21, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Paul Stoops stands in front of a firetruck at the Franklin Fire Department in Chambersburg, Pa. Stoops was honored in the April edition of Firehouse Magazine for saving the life of Assistant Fire Chief Jason Kuehler, who was trapped in a mobile home fire in March 2011.
By Roxann Miller

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — March 19, 2011, will forever be etched in the mind of Paul Stoops.

It’s the day the Franklin Fire Department volunteer firefighter braved a fully engulfed structure fire to save the life of his assistant chief, who was trapped in the building.

For his efforts, Stoops was honored in the April edition of Firehouse Magazine.

Stoops’ name appears in the No. 10 spot on the magazine’s list of “2011 Awardee Profiles: Firehouse Heroism and Community Service Awards.”

“I wasn’t really expecting it, and then I got a phone call (with) the deputy fire chief saying, ‘Hey, Firehouse Magazine is going to interview you. You got picked as one of the top award winners out of 25 (in) the entire country,’” Stoops said.

Franklin Fire Company Deputy Chief Jeremy Rebok submitted Stoops’ name to the magazine in the hopes of Stoops being recognized for his heroic actions.

“This is the first time in our department history that someone has ever been nominated for the Firehouse Magazine award, and it’s the first time that we got one,” Rebok said.

Stoops said he had just crawled into bed on March 19 at 2:46 a.m. when he heard his company respond to a possible brush fire on Frank Road that was upgraded to a mobile home fire after crews arrived on the scene.

Upon arrival, Stoops said he heard a panicked mayday call come from Assistant Fire Chief Jason Kuehler.

“I got down and followed the line in, and proceeded through the door. I ran into something that was laying on the floor,” Stoops said. “I leaned down to look, and I caught the Scotch lighting off the gear and I realized who it was.”

He dragged Kuehler out of the fire to safety.

“The heat was intense,” Stoops said. “I can’t even imagine what he was feeling.”

Kuehler suffered burns over more than 70 percent of his body. Thirty percent of the burns were third-degree burns.

“I was burned on both hands, both elbows and biceps, my abdomen and lower legs,” he said.

Kuehler spent 33 days at the burn unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, followed by rehabilitation that ended last month.

“I’m here today because of Paul,” Kuehler said. “He put his personal safety aside. He knew that one of his fellow firefighters was trapped in the building, and he did what he had to do to get me out.”

He resumed volunteering on Jan. 2, and his first day back as a paid firefighter in Alexandria, Va., was Jan. 7.

The award application process was lengthy and there were hundreds of applicants, but Rebok hoped Stoops would be recognized for his heroism.

“For me as the deputy chief, I thought it was great that he be recognized for that incident,” Rebok said. “A lot of people get awards for rescuing civilians from their burning homes or trapped cars or so forth, but to actually be able to rescue one of your own — in our case the assistant chief — I really thought that it was necessary that he be recognized for that.”

Even after the national recognition, Stoops remains a reluctant hero.

“I just answered the mayday that he put out,” Stoops said. “I’m just doing what we train here to do.”

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