Md. – Matthew Shrawder and four other firefighters with the Dunkirk
Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene of a raging house
fire in Owings, Maryland, at 10:30 a.m. on March 9.
got there, I was playing through my head, which line I was going to
pull, where I was going to go and just keeping all the training I've
had in the back of my head,” said Shrawder. “Just try to stay safe.”
Shrawder jumped off the fire truck and ran to the front porch of
the burning house where he met Tommy Breen, a retired Prince
George's County fire chief and the first person to arrive on scene.
Shrawder started to put his oxygen mask on and go in the front
doorway when he saw, amid the billowing smoke and fire, an elderly
woman lying in the hallway. He and Breen went into the inferno and
dragged the woman to the front porch where another firefighter
carried her to the front yard and an EMT began performing CPR on
“When we pulled her out, I didn't notice until we got
her on the front lawn how badly burned she was and that she was in
cardiac arrest,” said Shrawder.
Once Shrawder saw that the
woman was being taken care of, he grabbed the main hose line and
went to work.
“I went in and started making a knock on the
fire,” said Shrawder.
He and his fellow firefighters pushed
through the first floor, hosing down the flames while enduring
extreme heat and blinding smoke. According to Shrawder, the roar of
the fire was so deafening that none of them were able to hear the
fire truck alarm meant to signal their evacuation. The intense fire
had been rapidly tearing away at the house and trapped Shrawder in
the hallway. A fellow firefighter grabbed him by the collar and
pulled him out. During this time, other fire engines arrived on the
scene and began working to put out the fire.
been sitting in class at Northern High School only an hour earlier.
The 18-year-old is part of the Fire, Rescue and EMS Cadets,
a special vocational technical program funded by the Calvert County
Board of Education that qualifies teenagers to respond to fires and
other emergencies. Students such as Shrawder participate in this
year-long program where they join a volunteer fire department and
attend training sessions in lieu of free periods during school
Shrawder enrolled in the cadet program when he was 15
years old; however, he was not able to go out on calls until he
turned 16. He had spent most of his time cleaning gear and
“You can ask any guy at the firehouse, I cleaned
24/7,” said Shrawder.
Shrawder has basically lived out of the
firehouse ever since he joined the program three years ago. He's
responded to several hundred calls, ranging from house fires to car
accidents, and injuries. He was recognized by the fire station for
making more than 500 runs in 2014.
William Rector, the fire
chief for the Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department, says that Shrawder
is more experienced than many of the firefighters he has worked with
in the last 14 years.
“His actions in the fire department
are pretty impressive for someone his age,” said Rector, a native of
Silver Spring, Maryland. “If we had more young men like him, the
fire department and the military would be a much better place than
what it is now. Every place has its challenges, but very seldom do
we find someone who exceeds our standards.”
The Calvert County Board of Commissioners recently recognized
Shrawder with a proclamation for his acts of heroism on that fateful
day in March. He is very quick to downplay any praise he has
received from friends, family, and coworkers.
Matthew Shrawder, center, a firefighter with the Dunkirk Volunteer
Fire Department, is recognized for his acts of heroism while
rescuing a woman from a house fire by the Calvert County Board of
Commissioners during their monthly meeting on March 24, 2015.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
“I don't really think I deserve it because it's what we're
supposed to do – it's our job,” said Shrawder. “We don't need a pat
on the back for doing our job.”
Shrawder is scheduled to
attend Marine Corps recruit training this summer after he graduates
high school. He says he always wanted to enlist in the military and
made the decision to join the Marine Corps sometime when he was in
middle school. Shrawder believes the stress of being a firefighter
will prepare him for the stresses of recruit training and for life
as a Marine.
“I'm handed multiple tasks at one time and I
have to deal with it ... I think it will help me a lot,” said Shrawder.
Article by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Bryan Nygaard
of Matthew Shrawder
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