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CANFIELD Three firefighters earn medals for saving man's life



Published: Sat, May 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two pulled a man out of a smoke-filled barn after a third had extinguished the fire.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Three firefighters from the Cardinal Joint Fire District were honored for saving the life of a former colleague.

Firefighters Rob Tieche and William Wilkeson, both of Canfield, and Scott Shaffer of Austintown each were awarded district service ribbons during a special ceremony at the municipal building.

The ribbons were presented to the firefighters by Memory Lane resident William Melesky, the former firefighter they had saved.

Tieche received a district ribbon for courage, while Shaffer and Wilkeson received ribbons for gallantry. The courage ribbon is awarded to firefighters who show initiative and demonstrate that they are capable while they are involved in acts of bravery, said district chief Robert Tieche, Rob's father.

Shaffer and Wilkeson received the ribbons for placing themselves at great personal risk while rescuing Melesky, the chief said.

"Maybe that was the best way to thank them," Melesky said about the presentation, adding, "There really is no way to thank them for saving your life."

What happened: Shaffer and Wilkeson crawled into a smoke-filled barn at around 11:45 a.m. Jan. 15 to rescue Melesky, who was unconscious. They carried Melesky out of the barn by placing his arms over their shoulders.

Rob Tieche had previously entered the barn and extinguished the fire.

"It's good to know that the outcome was a good outcome, and that he's still around because of what we did," Shaffer said. Tieche added, "We worked as a team, and that's what this job's about."

The Cardinal Joint Fire District serves both the city of Canfield and Canfield Township.

The blaze: Melesky, a district firefighter from 1988 until 1994, was working in his barn when a fire started in an electrical box. The fire spread until it blocked the barn's only unlocked exit.

After an unsuccessful attempt to extinguish the fire, Melesky tried to escape from the barn by cutting a hole in the wall with a chainsaw. The chainsaw stalled, however.

Melesky said he then sat down on the floor, covered himself with his coat, and passed out. Meanwhile, his wife called the fire department.

"I almost made it, but I needed some help from my friends, and they are my friends," Melesky said.

Melesky suffered serious respiratory injuries as a result of the fire, but said that today he is "as strong as I was the day before it happened." He added that the actions of Tieche, Wilkeson, and Shaffer have led him to consider re-joining the fire district.

"If they were five seconds later, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be dead," he said.

hill@vindy.com




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