Firefighter honored for effort in boat fire
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Nov 11, 2013, 15:18
CHESTERFIELD — Local firefighter Dale Fields encounters fires often working at the Chesterfield Fire Department. But last July, Fields encountered a fire while off duty, and still did all he could to help with the blaze.
Fields had just returned from vacation, and took his boat down to Dutch Gap. While his boat was still on the trailer warming up, Fields heard people screaming and yelling.
“I looked down the river and there was a boat on fire, burning from front to back,” Fields said.
At first, Fields says he wanted to stay out of the way, but then his firefighter mind kicked in.
“Where the boat was burning, there was no location for a boat landing, so I though someone must be downriver that needs a hand,” Fields said.
Unloading his boat from the trailer and into the water, Fields headed downstream and noticed a group of five or six people huddled on the shore in the trees, screaming and pointing at the boat.
Fields says he thought he noticed someone in the water by the burning boat, but also saw a man struggling between the boat and the shore. Fields threw a cushion to the struggling man, but then realized he would not be able to save himself. In a moment’s decision, Field’s decided to pull the man to safety.
When he returned to the site of the burning boat, the second man was no where to be seen.
After making four dives into the water to try and find the man, Fields was not able to find him. Around this time, teams from Henrico and Chesterfield had arrived on the scene. According to Fields, Chesterfield divers found the man within seconds of diving in the water.
Following his actions during the fire, the Chesterfield Fire and EMS awarded Fields for his actions with the Medal of Valor, the highest honor in the fire department. In September, the Board of Supervisors’ passed a resolution honoring him.
Fields has been a career firefighter for 33 years, beginning his career in Petersburg and then moving to Chesterfield 17 years ago. He began his work in firefighting as a volunteer, wanting to help the community.
“It was something to do when you were young, helping people out, and helping the community,” Fields said.
Although Fields was able to save one mans life in this incident, he believes the real honor should go to the dive teams, for doing what they do. Fields is humble about the rescue he performed, and although the honor is appreciated, the reality is that a life was still lost that day.
“It’s a pat on the back to say good job, but at the same time somebody lost their life, which is never anything to be happy about,” said Fields.