June 17 • 11:25 AM

Almont grad rescues boy

Firefighter Robert Flinn pulls 11-year-old from house fire in Dearborn Heights

December 17, 2008
ALMONT — One of the community's own tipped the scales in favor of life for an 11-year-old boy who was trapped in a burning home.

Robert Flinn, a 1997 Almont High School graduate was credited for his heroic actions by the Dearborn Heights Fire Department, where he's served as a firefighter since 2005.

When Flinn's former high school wrestling coach learned about the award, he was anxious to share it with those in his old hometown.

"As his former coaches we are very proud of him,"

Tom Kroll says of the Almont coaching team.

Dearborn Heights Fire Chief Andrew Gurka and Deputy Chief George Zalucki congratulate Pump Operator Jason Sawyer and Firefighter Robert Flinn as they display the Commendation of Merit awards they received for saving an 11-year-old boy’s life.

Flinn and pump operator Jason Sawyer each received a Commendation of Merit award on November 24 for their quick response during an October house fire in Dearborn Heights.

"That award hasn't been given out for many years," says George Zalucki, deputy chief of the Dearborn Fire Department. "Both of these firefighters did an exceptional job. If not for their efforts, it could have been a fatal situation for a young boy."

Flinn and Sawyer were among the first to arrive on scene when the fire was called in around 6:20 p.m. on October 11. According to a report from Fire Lt. William Herman, moderate to heavy dark gray smoke was visible around the house coming from the windows and doors.

A woman at the scene told Herman that someone was still in the house, believed to be in the basement.

"Pump Operator Sawyer and Firefighter Flinn without hesitation geared up properly and prepared for rescue," Herman's report says.

Flinn and Sawyer entered through the front door of the house and discovered that the fire stood between themselves and the basement door.

"A quick knockdown was necessary before Sawyer and Flinn could locate the victim," Herman reports.

Within a short time, Flinn and Sawyer emerged from the home with the 11-year-old boy in tow. He was found on the basement stairwell.

The boy was transported to a local hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

Herman recommended that Flinn and Sawyer be recognized, stating that he believed the outcome could have been much different.

"The 11-year-old victim of the house fire would have been seriously if not gravely injured if not for the quick, decisive and professional actions of Pump Operator Sawyer and Firefighter Flinn," Herman says.

Zalucki agrees, adding that this type of situation doesn't crop up every day.

"It's one of those things we don't look forward to but we enjoy testing our skills and it is very rewarding when something like this happens," Zalucki says. "Both of these firefighters did an exceptional job that evening. They have a history of doing a very good job for the City of Dearborn Heights."

Flinn's dad, attorney Eric Flinn of Almont, says his son's passion for firefighting was cemented in Almont, where Robert volunteered on the local department.

"He is very grateful to (Chief) Paul Wilcox for being a mentor to him," Eric Flinn says.

As for his son's heroic efforts, Eric Flinn says he's pleased that Robert is successful in his chosen profession.

"I'm extremely proud, it's a wonderful thing," Eric says.

Eric adds that he and his wife Christine know their son picked a dangerous profession, but they try not to worry about Robert's own safety too much.

"My wife and I talk and we try not to think about it," Eric says. "He's happy on the department there (in Dearborn Heights), just like here in Almont there's a fraternity there among the fellas and the women. It's like a big family."

It's a scenario that works for Robert Flinn. He says he was motivated by Chief Wilcox when he joined the Almont Fire Department 10 years ago, and he knew he was destined for a firefighting career. Robert earned a degree in fire science, became an EMT and paramedic, and signed on in Dearborn Heights three years ago.

"I never wanted a job sitting at an office and this is kind of a fun job, there's a lot of camaraderie involved," Flinn says. "And you get to see the results of your work."

The Dearborn Heights Fire Department serves a 12.07 square mile area in which more than 58,200 residents live. The department also protects 1,146 commercial businesses, handles emergency medical calls and transports patients to area hospitals. Including the chief, the department employs more than 50 fire personnel.

Last year the department responded to 4,500 rescue calls and 1,500 fire calls.

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