Thursday, August 10, 2000

Rescuers to be recognized

Fire chief to commend all who helped save girl

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Fire Division Chief Robert Wright says he plans to recognize every firefighter involved in the rescue of a 1-year-old girl in December 1994.

        “I will probably do an open letter to all the firefighters and commend all the people by name who were involved in this rescue,” Chief Wright said Wednesday. “Because this issue was reopened, it cries out for me to try and make this situation right.”

        Some Cincinnati firefighters were upset when some firefighters went unrecognized during an informal reunion last Saturday of the girl, who is now 6, her father and three firefighters involved in her rescue.

        In fact, some were angered that the firefighter who actually located the girl and her brother in their burning Avondale apartment went unrecognized and was not at the reunion.

        Chief Wright said after a day of talking to firefighters involved in the blaze that Capt. Ron Texter, a lieutenant in 1994, actually discovered the two children, Beverly Hector, and her brother, Walter Hector, 2, who died from the fire.

        Calling Capt. Texter's work that day “outstanding,” Chief Wright said then-Lt. Texter “found the children.”

        But, the chief said, one of the “core issues” in the resulting furor over the reunion was whether Lt. Harold Wright was in the burning apartment.

        Lt. Wright's supervisor confirmed that he was in the room, that at least three firefighters, including Lt. Wright, had carried a fire hose up an interior stairwell to the burning apartment and then entered the apartment.

        Some had complained that Lt. Wright had gotten too much credit for the rescue; some even questioned whether he was in the apartment, said Chief Wright.

        “He was,” said Chief Wright. “And by whatever means he had the little girl and he took her out. He had her in the room — whether she was handed to him or whether he picked her up, it is not clear. But we do know that Capt. Texter was the one that actually honed in on their location. He discovered them.”

        Chief Wright said a “chain of survival” existed during Beverly's rescue. It began when the firefighters entered the apartment and didn't end until the child was placed in an ambulance.

        Part of the problem, said the chief, was that the valor of those involved was lost in a debate over response time and whether the apartment building had working smoke detectors.

        “I think because of that, the issues of valor concerning Lt. Texter and all the others dropped through the cracks,” Chief Wright said. “Neither Lt. Texter nor Lt. Wright nor any of the others were ever commended in an official way. I think that is unfortunate. He had it coming, and it never was given to him.”


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