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Firefighters honored by Exchange Club

Captain Tony Denby (left) and firefighter Derrick Eldridge were honored as Firefighters of the Year at the Exchange Club of Albany this month. (Special photo)

Captain Tony Denby (left) and firefighter Derrick Eldridge were honored as Firefighters of the Year at the Exchange Club of Albany this month. (Special photo)

ALBANY — Two Albany firefighters have been honored by the Exchange Club of Albany, according to Gary Graves, Exchange Club member.

Graves said that Captain Tony Denby and firefighter Derrick Eldridge received the 2013 Exchange Club Firefighter of the Year award. This is Denby’s fourth time receiving the award, which is generally given for an action resulting in the saving of human life, Graves said.

According to the official account of Denby’s and Eldridge’s action: On Feb. 3, the Albany Fire Department had been dispatched to 308 Johnson Road to assist EMS with gaining entry to a residence and was responding in a non-emergency mode. EMS was responding to a person with breathing difficulties, who was unable to walk to the door and open it, the account states.

The Albany Police Department had also responded for assistance and was already at the scene, the account states, reporting smoke coming from the building. According to the account, because of the original non-emergency nature of the call, the AFD had only one truck responding, which arrived shortly after the APD,

According to the account, the call then immediately became emergency in nature, indicating a structure fire and a possible rescue. Additional fire trucks were called into action, the account states. At that early stage, with no backup, Denby and Eldridge are said to have entered the structure with a hose line to perform search and rescue procedures in an attempt to find the person with breathing difficulties. The pair encountered the fire area and had to to extinguish enough of the fire to continue their search. According to the account, the firefighters ultimately found the victim in a bedroom, lying unresponsive on the floor.

The account states that Denby and Eldridge took the victim to EMS for patient care, then returned to the structure to finish extinguishing the fire. The other fire trucks arrived to assist in the operation, the account reads.

By the official account, Denby and Eldridge performed their duties under “extreme circumstances,” having limited water supply, limited manpower and no backup team.”

Albany Fire Chief, James Carswell called the action “amazing” on the parts of both award recipients, and especially for Denby having earned it four times. While presented by the Exchange Club, receipt of the Firefighter of the Year award is determined by a peer group of the Albany Fire Department, Carswell said, and Denby and Eldridge will be honored again next month by the Albany City Commission.

“It’s something to be really proud of,” said Carswell, himself an earlier award-winner, “but I think these guys would be the first to admit that our department is full of guys who would act in a similar way should circumstances call for it. It comes with the job.”