In 2004, the five firefighters were awarded the Ontario Medal for Firefighter Bravery presented by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Hon. James K. Bartleman
Credits: GREG HENKENHAF/QMI AGENCY
This scenario is not covered in the textbooks at firefighting school. But Darrell Black, Michael Black, Daniel Glanville, Brent Kirchner and Benoit Ladouceur managed to free the man - who didn't speak English and was only able to communicate with the firefighters through his son, who acted as the translator.
The rescue took 13 hours. The firefighters took turns dangling from a rope positioned directly under nearly 15 tonnes of unsolidified cement dust with others using a jackhammer to carefully break up the material enveloping the man.
For three years after he was saved, the man visited the firefighters annually to thank them for saving his life.
All five men were awarded medals of bravery Friday in Ottawa.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston honoured 44 Canadians in all at the 40th annual Decorations for Bravery ceremony held at Rideau Hall. The awards are given to police officers, law enforcement and civilians whose bravery defies the instinct for self-preservation, as Johnston put it.
Perhaps no story heard Friday embodied that sentiment quite like that of RCMP Sgt. James McLaren.
In most rescue operations, the person in distress wants to be saved. That was not the case on May 25, 2009, in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, when McLaren got the call about a drunk man threatening to jump in to the Arctic Ocean.
By the time McLaren arrived, the man was in the icy water. And when McLaren threw him a rope with a hook attached, the man yelled for him to go away.
Despite his attempts being thwarted by the man, McLaren saved his life. Even after being awarded a medal of bravery, McLaren says he was just doing what anyone else in that situation would have.
"This is why 19 years ago I took this job; I took it to help people," he said. "To create a little order, give a little relief, to people suffering, people in need."