Plant City Fire Rescue Announces 2011 Firefighter of the Year Award Recipients

Plant City Fire Rescue is proud to announce the 2011 Firefighter of the Year Award recipients. For the first time in the history of the department co-recipients were named. Captain Vincent Probst and Firefighter/Paramedic Jimmy Riley earned this distinction during a rescue that occurred on March 28, 2011.

At around 10:30 on the morning of March 28, the alarm sounded for “possible entrapment in a sinkhole,” a response reference that gave the crew an idea that they were headed for an unusual situation.

“We deal with unusual responses on a daily basis but never to this extreme,” said Jim Wilson, EMS chief for the Department. “When we arrived, the police officer was holding onto the victim’s arm desperately trying to keep her from going into the hole deeper. He was obviously exhausted and had to be relieved. Captain Probst and Firemedic Riley immediately stepped in, began the extrication process, and assured that no other responders entered into the area of the collapse.”

The victim was in her backyard picking some herbs and chatting on her cellphone. As she walked back toward her house she suddenly fell into a hole. Unable to climb out and rapidly sinking deeper into the hole she only had seconds to react in order to get help on the way. Fortunately she had her cell phone with her and she was able to summon 9-1-1.

The first responder, a police officer, arrived to find the victim neck deep in mud and sand and sinking deeper as each moment passed. The officer grabbed her arm and held on while alerting the dispatch center and responding fire units that the situation was dire.

Captain Probst and Firemedic Riley arrived to find the officer fighting to keep himself from sliding into the hole and holding onto the arm of the victim who was obviously in distress. “There was no room for her to breath and the weight of the dirt already on her was literally suffocating her,” Wilson said.

As it was clear that the police officer was exhausted and unable to remove the victim, Captain Probst initiated a rapid extrication. He took the place of the police officer and, with the help of firemedic Riley, slowly and surely removed her from the hole.

“We just did what had to be done,” said Captain Probst in response to finding out about his award. “I am just glad that everything turned out okay and we got her out in time.” Firemedic Riley’s statement was more telling about his efforts in helping to save this victim’s life. “It was a really unusual call. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to get her out in time. Thankfully she had a positive outcome and none of the responders were seriously injured.”

Sincere congratulations to both Captain Vincent Probst and Firemedic Jimmy Riley for having earned this award. Their actions in the process of this rescue demonstrate the highest values of placing the needs of others above one’s own safety and clearly are worthy of the praise, admiration and accolades that accompany such an award.