Peoria firefighter to receive Medal of Valor at White House for fiery rescue

Posted: 5:50 PM, Jul 31, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-31 22:05:27-04

A Peoria Fire-Medical Department engineer is set to receive a Public Safety Medal of Valor for a courageous rescue. 

Stephen Gunn was called out to a house fire near 75th Avenue and Thunderbird Road in April of 2016. The incident was a home invasion and arson fire. 

He was one of the first fire units to arrive at the house. Dispatchers told the firefighter there were reports of people trapped inside.

“We were confronted by multiple bystanders and police officers saying that they could see someone inside the house lying on the floor that they could not get to him," said Gunn. “They told me if I was in for maybe 15-20 more seconds that I would’ve started feeling it on my skin."

Gunn was the closest firefighter to the house and headed into the burning building. He went inside through a blown out window at the front of the house and crawled under the smoke. 

Officials said the firefighter's helmet was melting, his clothing was blackening and his skin was burning once inside. 

Gunn was able to locate a victim and handed the victim over to his fire captain. He received burns, and was treated; he returned to his next shift immediately, they said. 

The firefighter will travel to Washington D.C. where he, along with 11 others, will receive the Medal of Valor, which is the nation's highest award given to public safety officers, by either the president or vice president at the White House. The date is yet to be determined. 

The White House said Gunn and the rest of the recipients all "exhibited great courage and unwavering dedication to serving our country."

Gunn says he just did what any of his crew members would have done if they were first to approach.

“This whole experience has just been very humbling for me,” Gunn said. "If it was anyone of them that got off that truck first and were approached by those police officers, they would’ve done the same exact thing."