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Hilton Head Fire Rescue Honored with 2023 IAFC Ben Franklin Award for Valor

International Association of Fire Chiefs and Motorola Solutions recognize first responders for their courageous residential fire rescue
International Association of Fire Chiefs and Motorola Solutions recognize first responders for their courageous residential fire rescue

 The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Motorola Solutions announced Battalion Chief David Bell, Lieutenant Sean Kavlick and fire apparatus operator Brendan Horlbeck as the recipients of the 2023 IAFC Ben Franklin Award for Valor. Nominated for their heroic fire rescue, the members of Hilton Head Fire Rescue embodied incredible courage and resilience.

On September 9, 2022, the Hilton Head Island 911 Center received multiple calls for a residential fire on the east side of the island. When Truck 6 – which included Bell, Kavlick and Horlbeck – arrived on scene, they quickly discovered that 75% of the 4,900 square foot, three story home was engulfed in flames. As the first arriving engine, Truck 6 went in without hesitation. They were met with extremely high heat, zero visibility and quickly deteriorating conditions. They did not waver in their bravery or commitment and eventually came into contact with one of the occupants. Visibility was so poor that they could only confirm through touch. 

The crew worked together to carry the occupant to safety, and with the help of outside personnel, they performed CPR and life-saving measures. With additional care at a hospital and burn unit, the occupant ultimately made a full recovery, an outcome that would not have been possible without the heroic efforts of Bell, Kavlick and Horlbeck. The second occupant was found on the roof and was brought down to safety by other responding crews. The third was, tragically, found deceased in an area heavily involved in fire, though the firefighters of Truck 6 made several more entries into the home in an attempt to locate him.

“Our Ben Franklin Award for Valor is our most prestigious award honoring firefighters that go above and beyond in the name of public service,” said Chief Donna Black, president and board chair, IAFC. “I want to express my gratitude to this year’s winners, who exemplified not only expert training and leadership, but unparalleled bravery.”

“The heroes of Hilton Head Fire Rescue put themselves at great risk to save the lives of others,” said Chris Lonnett, vice president, Motorola Solutions. “They relied on the strength of their training and conditioning and remained steadfast amidst difficult conditions. On behalf of Motorola Solutions, the IAFC and the communities they serve, we are honored to present this award to three very deserving recipients.”

Medals of Honor were presented to Bell, Kavlick and Horlbeck on Aug. 17 at Fire-Rescue International in Kansas City, Missouri.  

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