OCF/R personnel honored for heroics

OKEECHOBEE — Heroic efforts to save a fire fighter’s life, and a focus on proposed budgets for fire and EMS highlighted the morning agenda when the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners met Thursday.

The commission honored Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue (OCF/R) driver/engineer Michael McLeod and firefighter/paramedic Ricky Hansford for their work battling a fire on the prairie Easter Sunday.

They rescued a Florida Forest ranger trapped in his bulldozer by the fast moving flames.

Forestry Chief Tim Elder said it was a very difficult situation that afternoon. He said six bull dozers were dispatched to fight the dangerous fire fueled by high winds. One of his rangers, got caught in those flames.

“There is no doubt in my mind it could have been a lot worse. Dozers we can replace, but people we cannot,” he said.

Both men received the meritorious conduct award.

On April 16, Mr. McLeod and Mr. Hansford were part of the emergency response to a 425-acre brush fire on the Prairie. During the course of the operation the crew encountered a strong wind shift that pushed smoke and flames onto the road and took away almost all of their visibility.

As they were exiting the area, they came across a forest service bulldozer that was on fire with the operator still standing on the dozer. The drew deployed a hose line in an attempt to extinguish the large piece of equipment. However, due to the advanced stage of the blaze the decision was made to evacuate the ranger and the crew.

OCF/R Chief Ralph Franklin noted that after having talked to Florida Forest Service representatives, if it hadn’t been for the efforts of Mr. McLeod and Mr. Hansford, the likelihood of injury or worse to the ranger was high. The crew’s actions negated that potential outcome.

“These two firefighters are an example of the dedication that fire service personnel have towards saving lives and property,” said Chief Franklin.

Mr. Hansford said his training kicked in as he approached the fire and noticed the entire bulldozer surrounded by flames.

“It was a hot day, and windy, and very, very dangerous. He actually got out of the dozer and went and fought fires with us for three hours. We were in the right time at the right place,” Mr. Hansford added.

Hansford has been with the OCF/R for nine years.

Mr. McLeod said he appreciated the award.

“Saving lives is one of the many reasons I got into the fire service. I didn’t know the man, personally, but I had seen him at other fires. The danger level was very high at the time with dry conditions and high winds. The fire was spreading and we knew it would be something bad,” he pointed out.

Front -Fire Rescue employees Michael McLeod (driver/engineer) and Ricky Hansford (firefighter/paramedic). Back- County Administrator Robbie Chartier, Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, Kelly Owens, Brad Goodbread, Chairman Terry Burroughs, David Hazellief and Fire Chief Ralph Franklin.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment