The Tacoma Fire Department awarded fire fighter Matt Fleming with the medal of valor award in a special ceremony Tuesday. The department’s highest award, the medal of valor is given to fire fighters who demonstrate acts of bravery and heroism in an extremely hazardous situation. There have been only four emergency incidents in the last 12 years that have resulted in medals of valor.
The accolade stemmed from a water rescue incident on June 5. Crews responded to a report of a capsized boat in Commencement Bay and upon arrival found one of the boats occupants had made it to shore and the other was clinging to a flotation device approximately 100 feet offshore. With the fireboat Destiny still en route, and the patient appearing to be losing the fight to stay above water, Fleming volunteered to be the rescue swimmer as the incident commander organized a shore-side rescue attempt. Fire fighter Fleming discarded his excess clothing, donned a personal flotation device, secured a tag line and swam out in the 45 degree water to the patient. Once there, he secured the patient to a life ring and kept his head above water as police and fire fighters pulled the pair to safety.