Dept. honors 5 for heroic acts.
On May 5, the LAFD hosted its annual Medal of Valor ceremony at Dodger Stadium. The ceremony honored five individuals who performed over and above the call of duty during 2020.
Medal of Valor
The Medal of Valor is awarded to sworn personnel who have demonstrated bravery at great risk to their own lives, beyond a doubt and clearly above the call of duty, whether on or off-duty.
Medal of Merit
The Medal of Merit is awarded to sworn personnel who distinguish themselves by performing an act where the individual’s actions, if not taken, would have resulted in serious injury or present imminent danger to life. The individual must have demonstrated a conspicuous act of bravery with calculated personal risk to his or her own life.
Letter of Special Commendation
A Letter of Special Commendation is awarded to department members who perform an act requiring initiative and/or ability worthy of recognition during emergency or non-emergency conditions.
Corporate Impact Award
The Corporate Impact Award is presented to a company that exhibits philanthropic excellence in the community, outstanding corporate citizenship, and longstanding support of the Department and its personnel.
Community Impact Award
The Community Impact Award is presented to an organization that provides invaluable service to the community and outstanding support for the people of Los Angeles.
Station of the Year Award
The Station of the Year Award is presented to the men and women assigned to one specific station, who collectively exhibit exemplary service, professionalism, bravery and compassion.
Congratulations to all! Following are abridged narratives of the events for which the Firefighters were honored. Narratives are courtesy the LAFD Foundation.
H O N O R E E S
Capt. II Kenneth Willahan (Medal of Valor)
Firefighter/Paramedic Wesley Manning
(Medal of Merit)
Engineer Robert Medrano (Medal of Merit)
Capt. I Rob Scott
(Medal of Merit)
Firefighter III Cody Crippen (Special Commendation)
Also highlighted were:
Fire Station 9
(Station of the Year)
Farmer’s Insurance (Corporate Impact Award)
Medal of Valor:
Capt. II Kenneth Willahan
Medal of Merit:
Capt. I Rob Scott
Capt. II Kenneth Willahan and Capt. I Rob Scott are leaders and close colleagues at Fire Station 95 near LAX. Off-duty, they are best friends who spend family vacations together. They are being recognized for their courageous acts during a recent family vacation trip to Utah.
On a rafting excursion in Moab, their guide spotted an upside-down kayak racing toward their position. Two individuals appeared in the water behind the kayak showing signs of distress. The two Captains and their guide ran upriver toward the overboard kayakers. The rescuers spaced themselves along the shore, hoping to deploy the throw bag in time to catch the first victim, but the first kayaker was swept past them. Capt. Scott shouted downriver to alert the others as a woman and small boy came barreling down the rapids. He waded into waist-deep water, hoping he could reach them but could not. The woman and little boy rushed by, visibly struggling to stay above water.
Downriver, without a life vest, Capt. Willahan plunged into the river, swimming frantically behind the mother and child. He swam to them, grabbed onto the oar and assured them that everything would be okay. Capt. Willahan held on tightly to the mother and child as they traversed the rapids. Without a vest, Capt. Willahan managed to keep them all afloat with only one free arm.
Meanwhile, Capt. Scott sprinted down the riverbank back to their raft. He and the guide ushered the group back into the raft to pursue Capt. Willahan. A second kayak had caught up with Capt. Willahan containing the grandparents of the little boy.
Capt. Willahan heaved the child into the grandparents’ kayak and then helped keep the mother afloat. The grandparents paddled a short distance to a safe embankment. Moments later, Capt. Scott and the rest of the party arrived at the rescue scene to find the mother, boy and Capt. Willahan safely ashore.
The father of the little boy, the first of the kayakers to rush past the Captains while still on the riverbank, was rescued moments later by a group of paddleboarders.
Capts. Rob Scott and Kenneth Willahan successfully helped rescue a mother and her young boy at grave personal risk. Unknowingly, they also saved a third life as it was later revealed that the mother was six months pregnant at the time of the incident. They exemplified exceptional bravery, courageous spirit, and the very best of the Los Angeles Fire Dept.
Medal of Merit:
A simple shopping errand resulted in a heartbreaking incident that prompted Firefighter/Paramedic Wesley Manning to act heroically.
Wes Manning was off-duty, shopping at his local Costco. While browsing toward the rear of the store, he heard gunshots ring out. Turmoil ensued as terrified shoppers scrambled toward emergency exits.
Wes encouraged his fellow shoppers to remain calm and quiet as he helped usher them out a nearby exit. Instead of fleeing for safety, Wes chose to stay inside the store in case someone needed help.
Manning cautiously made his way from the emergency exit through the aisles until he came upon a male lying on the ground. The man was leaning on his side while pointing the barrel of the firearm down a separate aisle.
Wes crouched behind a waist-high refrigerator unit for cover, then calmly engaged the man with the gun. Wes asked the man a series of simple questions and learned that no other shooters were present. At great personal risk, Wes proceeded to search the scene and encountered multiple victims — one deceased and two requiring immediate medical attention.
With help from a few brave Costco employees, Wes tended to the gunshot wounds of the victims. Wes remained with the victims until law enforcement and medical help arrived.
After the two conscious victims were in the hands of paramedics, Wes returned to examine the gunman for injuries while police secured the scene. After a nerve-racking 25-minute ordeal, Wes helped turn the shooter over to law enforcement without further incident.
Thanks to Firefighter/Paramedic Manning and a few courageous Costco employees, the two wounded victims survived.
Medal of Merit:
Engineer Robert Medrano
On a late August evening, Task Force 15 was dispatched to a sizable residential fire near Exposition Park. As is customary, Engineer Robert Medrano went to work securing the water supply for Engine 46 as soon as he arrived on the scene. With his primary task completed, he quickly moved on to survey the exterior of the structure.
He made his way to the backyard and encountered a frantic group of residents. They were unharmed but claimed two members of the household were still trapped inside.
At this point, heavy fire was showing from all sides of the building. With no time to waste, Engineer Medrano entered through the back door in search of the entrapped victims. He crouched low and moved with haste as thick, noxious smoke billowed throughout the house.
He searched until he located a blocked door, but it was too late. His eyes were searing. His lungs burned from the smoke and from holding his breath. He had to retreat to the backyard and regain his breath.
Twice more, he reentered the burning home in search of the trapped victims. On his third attempt, the door was breached with help from Engine 66 crewmembers, and the two victims were extracted. Engineer Medrano proceeded to render aid to a barely breathing female victim until she was loaded into an ambulance.
Medrano performed these acts despite not having his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) – a firefighter’s face protection and breathing system. He suffered significant smoke inhalation and was taken to a nearby hospital. While receiving oxygen treatment, Medrano learned the unfortunate news that the patient he helped rescue had passed away.
Engineer Medrano risked his personal safety in hopes of saving others. Despite the somber outcome, he is commended for his bravery and selflessness.
Letter of Special Commendation:
Firefighter III Cody Crippen
On a sweltering August evening, Firefighter III Cody Crippen was set to enjoy some family time at the local pool. Not long after settling in, Cody heard screaming, followed by a whirlwind of commotion. He looked up and saw a woman carrying a lifeless little boy.
Cody rushed to help as a crowd gathered. He encountered a father performing CPR on the unconscious child. Cody identified himself as a firefighter and knelt down to help.
He quickly cleared the boy’s airway, delivered a series of back blows alternated by chest compressions. During the third set of compressions, the boy began to regain consciousness.
Within minutes of reviving the boy, local firefighters arrived on the scene. Cody conducted the handoff with the ambulance crew, then proceeded to comfort the child’s parents while paramedics rendered care.
Thankfully the little boy has recovered fully due to the father’s CPR training and Firefighter Crippen’s heroic actions.
Station of the Year:
Fire Station 9
Fire Station 9 is in downtown Los Angeles, serving the community referred to as Skid Row. Despite covering a relatively small geographical service area, Station 9 has historically ranked as one of the busiest, if not the busiest fire station in the nation.
Station 9 serves an area plagued by some of the most dangerous, sensitive and complex challenges facing our communities. The approximately 60 firefighters at Station 9 regularly respond to everything from seizures and overdoses, to stalled elevators and commercial fires — all in an area defined by extreme poverty and homelessness.
Station 9 averages about 80 emergency calls per day. Many of the 7,000 homeless people living on Skid Row rely on these firefighters as their primary healthcare provider. The Station 9 crew does their best to help these patients who are often victims of crime, or crippled by addiction and psychiatric disorders from years of living on the street.
In 2019 alone, Station No. 9 logged nearly 22,800 emergency calls across just 1.28 square miles — about 7,500 more than the LAFD’s next-busiest station. Serving one of our most vulnerable communities has given those at Station 9 a unique perspective on life in Los Angeles. But rather than dwell on nonstop challenges, they serve with pride, professionalism and a sense of family shaped by their shared commitment to one of the City’s most intense assignments.
Community Impact Award:
CORE: Community Organized Response Effort is the Los Angeles Fire Dept.’s partner with the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
In late March 2020, Los Angeles became the first major city in the United States to offer free COVID testing. Responsibility for managing public COVID testing fell on the LAFD. As the strain of this unprecedented effort unfolded, CORE recognized an opportunity to assist.
Six days a week since the onset of the pandemic, CORE’s staff and volunteers have subjected themselves to the rigors of operating public testing sites across
Los Angeles. Together with the LAFD, CORE leads the frontline effort to administer thousands of daily COVID tests. In fact, CORE has administered more than 4.2 million COVID tests in Los Angeles in partnership with LAFD.
Founded in 2010 by actor and humanitarian Sean Penn, CORE arose to help provide vital relief and recovery services in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Not long after, their disaster relief programs expanded to Puerto Rico, other parts of the Caribbean, and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
CORE continues the scope of its testing programs in communities across the country. Modeled on the success of their unconventional LAFD partnership, CORE now operates COVID sites in six states, Washington, D.C., and Navajo Nation.