Northwest Fire District honors crew for saving three during flash flood

‘To this day, I am surprised we didn’t have somebody swept away’
The Northwest Fire District honored crew members for their efforts during swift-water rescue last year.
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 2:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Five members of the Northwest Fire District were awarded the medal of honor — the highest honor for the fire service Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The five were recognized for their work in a terrifying and dangerous swift-water rescue in August 2021.

“Honestly we don’t have time to worry about fear,” said Captain Shane Medlen. “What we do for a living is inherently dangerous. We know the risks.”

Medlen was the lead supervisor on a swift-water rescue that saved three people.

Video of the amazing rescue can be seen below.

“We have a very small window to effect this rescue, but we were able to do it,” Medlen said. “Everybody was extremely resilient and extremely brave.”

Northwest Fire Chief Brad Bradley said this incident is unlike anything he’s seen in his 25 years in the industry.

“To this day, I am surprised we didn’t have somebody swept away either one of the victims or one of the rescuers,” Bradley said.

According to Northwest Fire, the water was moving at a rate of 25,000 cubic feet per second.

For context, that is the speed water tops out at in the Colorado River.

Yet, the rescuers never thought twice about entering the wash to rescue three people.

“It came down to a judgment call with lives at stake,” Bradley said.

“We needed to do something now in order to make a difference in these peoples,” Medlen said.

After one failed attempt, rescuers were able to successfully get all three to safety.

As a result, all five were honored with the medal of honor. It is the first time that award has been given in the history of the district.

Bradley said he couldn’t be more proud.

“We perform rescues. We perform life-saving acts every day that by all accounts and standards are considered heroic,” he said. “That was considered heroic and exceptional.”

Medlen said they were just doing their job.

“When we do this job we don’t expect recognition,” Medlen said. “We do what we do because we love the job.”

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