By Amy Wenk

On Dec. 12, 2007, Atlanta firefighters were dispatched to the Realm condominiums at 3324 Peachtree Road in Buckhead on report of a vehicle accident in a parking deck.

Upon arrival, firefighters found the car entangled in cables and hanging over the edge of the seven-level parking deck. The vehicle had one passenger that was unconscious and partially dangling from the car window.

Special Operations Firefighter Rodney Deese with the department’s search-and-rescue team rappelled by rope down to the swaying vehicle, shattered the front passenger window and crawled inside. He was able to secure the man in a harness for his removal from the car.

“For his life-saving efforts and bravery in the face of danger,” said Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, Deese was honored with the Medal of Valor at the Atlanta Fire-Rescue Department’s awards and recognition ceremony Dec. 18.

“Firefighter Deese placed himself in harm’s way to save the life of that patient,” Cochran said. “If the cables holding the car had snapped at any point prior to securing the car with the ropes, both the patient and firefighter Deese would have fallen with the car several stories to the ground.”

Second Battalion Chief Steven Woodworth added that when Deese was in recruit school, he suffered a stress fracture in his wrist that required a cast on his arm. Despite the injury, Deese pursued his training.

“For him to be able to pull off that rescue, for those of us who know him, was not a big surprise,” Woodworth said. “We are just glad to see that he finally got some recognition.”

Deese said this about his honor:

“It was very nice to win the award. I wish the whole team could have gotten this, but I do accept this award on behalf of them … A call like that takes hard work from many other people, so, like I said, I accept this award on behalf of special operations.”

At the ceremony, the Mount Paran-Northside Citizens Association was also honored for their work to renovate Fire Station 27. Cochran presented the group with the Chief’s Award of Distinction for their efforts.

“We were completely shocked and surprised,” said Marci Vincent, chair of the task force to renovate the station. “We were not expecting it at all. We are just so honored.”

The association announced in May they were going to raise funds to improve the conditions at Station 27. Exposed electrical wires over the shower, a leaky roof and rotted wood were just some of the things that made the station unlivable for firefighters.

So far, the organization has raised about $186,000 in their goal of $250,000 for the renovation, said Vincent. Since the groundbreaking on Dec. 4, the station has received a new roof.

“The one thing that we were overwhelmed by was the fact that firefighters from all over the city apparently knew about it and thanked us personally,” Vincent said. “I thought that was the thing that warmed our hearts the most.”

In addition, Fire Station 23, located on Howell Mill Road west of I-75, was honored with a Chief’s Award of Distinction.

“Our firefighters commit a lot of their time and own resources to improve their work environments,” Cochran said. “This year Fire Station No. 23 is being singled out … they have done a massive job in fixing up, renovating Fire Station 23.”

The station, however, will be shut down through the end of the fiscal year June 30 due to budget cutbacks.

Many other Atlanta Fire-Rescue employees and contributors were honored for their community service at the Dec. 18 ceremony. Among the major recipients were Fire Apparatus Operator Wayne Taylor, Firefighter of the Year; Firefighter Terry Moss, Award of Merit; and Captain George Howell, Professional Service Award.