Lifesaver Awards presented to four emergency responders who saved Ames woman in Jan. 20 housefire

Life Saver awards were presented to two fire chiefs and two police officers during the Feb. 8 Liberty City Council meeting for their efforts in saving a woman from a housefire in Ames on Jan. 20. Pictured left to right are Liberty Mayor Carl Pickett, Liberty Fire Chief Brian Hurst, Liberty County ESD 7 Fire Chief Nicolus Nelson, and Liberty Police Officers Kyle Cornelius and Jacob Cantu.

Two firefighters and two police officers from Liberty County were presented with Lifesaver Awards by the Liberty City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 9, for their efforts to save an Ames woman from her burning home on Jan. 20.

Liberty Fire Chief Brian Hurst, Liberty County ESD 7 Chief Nicolus Nelson and Liberty Police Officers Jacob Cantu and Kyle Cornelius were commended for saving the life of Jackie Freeman. Freeman’s brother, Wesley, also will receive a Life Saver award for assisting the first responders in the rescue.

Images from the dramatic rescue, captured on body cam videos worn by Cantu and Cornelius, were shared with Council and the large group of residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Even as the fire threatened their own safety, they worked together to coax Freeman, who reportedly was confused and fighting them, closer to her bedroom window where they managed to pull her to safety.

Liberty Fire Chief Brian Hurst (second from left) describes the scene of a Jan. 20 housefire in Ames where a woman was pulled to safety by himself and three others. They are pictured left to right: Liberty Police Officer Jacob Cantu, Hurst, Liberty County ESD 7 Fire Chief Nicolus Nelson and Liberty Police Officer Kyle Cornelius.

“She was fighting to get back in. Finally we grabbed her just right and we pulled her through the window. Chief Nelson and I worked her around, and then we all had to pull her out of the window. It was a monumental effort for everybody,” Hurst explained to Council. “If it wasn’t for these guys, for Nic and myself, and her brother, this patient would have died in this house fire.”

Hurst said that in his 25 years as a firefighter, it was the first time he was involved in saving a person in a house fire.

“That’s what I got into firefighting for – to help people,” Hurst said.

The City of Ames is a predominantly-black community just a couple of miles east of Liberty on US 90. As the City of Ames has no fire department or police department, it relies on law enforcement from the county and fire service from neighboring communities. Hurst thanked the City of Liberty for allowing its first responders to assist the residents of Ames in their times of crisis.

“It amazes me when you watch the news, and I don’t know how many people here watch the news, but it’s disgusting the amount of things you see in the news about one person who doesn’t like another person, one party who doesn’t like another party and how one race doesn’t like another race. It’s a testament to this City and one of the reasons I love Liberty – and I love Liberty – because here we work together,” Hurst said. “We had no reason to be there other than the fact that we were called because there was a fire. The City of Liberty was gracious enough to send them to a fire outside their territory. Nic also comes from a neighboring department and did not have to be there. We all went because we love our fellow man, and I think that’s fantastic. We don’t talk about it enough.”

None of the four heroes recognized in the meeting were seriously hurt in the fire; however, Cantu and Cornelius, who were first on the scene and tried repeatedly to breach the room through the window, suffered the effects of smoke inhalation and were treated at Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center before they were released.

City Manager Tom Warner said the actions of the firefighters and police officers reflects well on the agencies they serve.

“This is one of those things that could have been very tragic had four people not be there in a timely manner,” Warner said.

Liberty Mayor Carl Pickett echoed Hurst’s statements on working together in the neighboring communities.

“We want to continue that effort, that relationship, because it’s all in our best interests to do so. With folks like these guys, we will achieve that objective,” Pickett said. “Hopefully they won’t have to do this kind of thing again, but when the occasion arises, they will rise to that occasion. Council and staff are very proud of our fire department and police department. We want to always give them our support. You guys deserve a lot of recognition.”


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