It’s been nearly a decade, but William Dickerson’s heroism hasn’t been forgotten.
In 2008, Dickerson – a lieutenant with the Augusta Fire Department – rescued fellow firefighter Lt. Jay Jones, who was trapped under a high pressure water hose. On Tuesday, nine years after the incident, Dickerson was presented the Medal of Valor at the second annual Augusta Fire Department banquet at Julian Smith Casino.
“This means a lot – no doubt about it,” Dickerson said. “But for me, the most important thing is that Jay’s safe. Jay’s OK. Any award is great, but knowing Jay’s back at work means more than anything.”
The incident occurred in September 2008, as firefighters tried to extinguish a blaze at the 154-year-old Southern Milling Co. Building on Twiggs Street. While attempting to contain the flames, Jones got pinned beneath a deck gun water cannon and its 1,000-gallon-per-minute pressure stream after the device tipped over.
Jones was left with a broken collarbone, leg and ankle, and would likely have been killed if Dickerson hadn’t taken action and brought the hose under control. Jones, who was knocked unconscious, missed about a year of work due to his injuries.
“There’s no question Lt. Dickerson is a hero,” Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said. “But what he did doesn’t surprise me. If our firefighters risk their lives for a citizen, they’ll do the same for a fellow firefighter.”
Looking back on the incident, Dickerson said “it all happened in about three seconds.”
“I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t do something right now, Jay’s gonna die,’” Dickerson said.
Jones’ family still appreciates what Dickerson did.
In the weeks after the blaze, Jones’ wife and parents contacted Dickerson to express their appreciation for his heroism. Earlier this year, Jones’ daughter created a Facebook post to thank Dickerson for saving her father.
“Jay’s daughter wrote that I’m a hero, but that’s not the case at all,” Dickerson said. “Jay would have done the same thing for me.”
Dickerson was one of numerous honorees Tuesday.
Lt. Joey Smith was named Firefighter of the Year, while Tanner Albertson and Deputy Zachary Cuonzo received Distinguished Act of Heroism awards.
Award recipients are nominated by their colleagues and selected by a recognition committee.
“Each day, dozens of fire personnel put their lives on the line to save others,” stated Dee Griffin, public information officer for the Augusta Fire Department. “Firefighters are the first to respond when residents need help and they are often the only hope for survival in dire situations.”
Reach Doug Stutsman at (706) 823-3341 or email@example.com