Medal of Valor Awards

During the City Council Regular Meeting on May 14, 2024, four Monroe firefighters were awarded with a Medal of Valor for their heroism and bravery in service of rescuing a woman from a burning building.

Captain Keith Starnes, Captain Charlie Porter, Firefighter Josh Hawk, and Firefighter Chad Aldridge were among 25 firefighters who responded to an apartment fire on Fairly Avenue with reports of a person possibly trapped inside on the night before Thanksgiving: November 23, 2022.

While searching one apartment, Captain Keith Starnes and Firefighter Josh Hawk found Anita Plater unconscious on the floor in the living room. They immediately began moving her toward the back door. Firefighters reported heavy smoke conditions and fire rolling above their heads across the ceiling as they were removing Plater to safety.

Captain Charlie Porter and Firefighter Chad Aldridge entered the apartment and assisted with getting Plater to safety and into the care of Union EMS. She was transported by EMS to the hospital where ultimately she recovered.

A few days following this event, Plater came to the fire station to meet and thank the firefighters who saved her life. She was overcome with emotion expressing her heartfelt gratitude as she came face to face with her rescuers for the first time since the incident. 

"I love y’all so much! I am so grateful! [Y'all are] the only reason why I stand in front of y’all right now, and if there’s anything I can do please let me know. God Bless y’all," Plater said. 

“While all firefighters on the scene played a role in this rescue, these members entered a dangerous environment, quickly located the victim and brought her to safety. We’re certainly thankful to God for his protection for everyone in this incident,” said Fire Chief Ron Fowler. 

Captain Keith Starnes said a situation like this is what the brave men and women of the Monroe Fire Department train for every day. He said the opportunity to meet someone they rescued is a once-in-a-career experience that many firefighters never have. 

"I’m just glad that we were there and to get to meet the person we helped is always a benefit," Starnes said. 

"That’s what we’re here to do. We are here for them. Getting to see [Plater] here was absolutely wonderful. Firefighters don’t get to do that very often," said Firefighter Josh Hawk. 

Firefighters posing with their medals of valor

Chief Fowler emphasized that firefighting is a team effort and that everyone who responded to the call that night played an important role in the successful outcome.

According to department policy, the Medal of Valor may be awarded for a conspicuous act of valor and heroism by a fire department member under hazardous conditions in which a person is placed in a life-threatening position to save the life of another.

“We certainly feel these firefighters meet that criteria,” said Chief Fowler. 

Editor's note: Josh Hawk was the rank of Firefighter at the time of the incident and has since been promoted to the rank of Engineer.