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Fire Rescue: Commendation Awards Presented and New Graduates Honoured

December 1, 2012 – Thunder Bay Fire Rescue honoured both seasoned and new fire fighters at a Commendation Award and New Recruit Graduation Ceremony held today at the Thunder Bay & Region Protective and Emergency Services Training Centre.

For the first time, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue Commendation Awards were presented to six individuals within the Department. These new awards recognize fire fighters for exemplary action either on or off the job and can be awarded in three categories including Honor, Valor and Merit. Recipients must be nominated by their peers and then selected by the Recognition Committee.

The Inaugural Thunder Bay Fire Rescue Commendation Honour Awards were presented to:

Dan Coulter, Valor Award

Ryan Currie, Valor Award

Mark Ferrence, Merit Award

Harley Hakanen, Honor Award

Anthony Hockenhull, Honor Award

Jon Swaggert, Honor Award

Deputy Chief Hankkio, Deputy Chief Paxton and Director of Training Bill Johnson, also presented hats and badges to welcome six new fire fighters to the department. The following new recruits completed a six week training component with the guidance of Training Officer Martin Hynna and Training Officer Tim Langille bringing the Fire & Rescue Service to 213 personnel:

Edmund Dupuis

Matthew Henny

Randal McOrmond

Daniel Morrison

Nicholas Oryschak

Robert Sheppard

"Thunder Bay Fire Rescue is also proud to welcome six new 4th Class Fire fighters," said Deputy Chief Greg Hankkio. "It's important to recognize the hard work and dedication these individuals have put in to reach this point. We thank each new fire fighter and their families for their commitment to the Fire Service and the citizens of Thunder Bay."

"As new members of Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, we are excited to put our extensive training and preparation to work for the benefit of our community," Matthew Henny, Fall 2012 Recruit Valedictorian.


Contact: Bill Johnson, Director of Training – Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, 625-3157 or


These new awards recognize fire fighters for exemplary action either on or off the job and can be awarded in three categories including: Honor, Valor and Merit.

Merit Award

The Award of Merit is given to fire fighters for meritorious action taken during routine emergency operations, when there’s no risk to the fire fighter’s life. This award recognizes fire fighters who have performed great acts of service in an outstanding manner, including saving lives or preventing major property damage. The following fire fighter(s) earned this award in 2012:

Mark Ferrence – For administrating CPR to an individual who collapsed in January of 2012. During a Hockey Bus Tournament Trip to Sault Ste. Marie, the bus driver collapsed while loading hockey bags on the bus. Ferrence was alerted by an individual who had come into the lobby of the hotel. Ferrence ran out to the bus to find the bus driver’s vital signs absent and lying in the baggage compartment. Ferrence quickly assessed the patient, removed him from the baggage compartment to the ground and started CPR. After about a minute of chest compressions the driver was revived. He spent the next month recovering in hospital in Sault Ste. Marie and has fully recovered thanks to Ferrence’s actions

Valor Award

This award is given to fire fighters who clearly distinguish themselves by displaying great courage while under minimal risk of personal injury. This includes attempting to save or saving a life or preventing the substantial loss of property. Fire fighters who receive this honor have usually performed acts that clearly show courage or bravery. The following fire fighter(s) earned this award in 2012:

Dan Coulter & Ryan Currie – for assisting in the saving a fire fighter during an incident on the evening of May 18, 2012. While fighting a second-storey apartment fire on West Frederica Street, Captain Bill Stark encountered a problem with his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while deep in the fire room; his air supply was cut off. Out of air and in danger, he was able to find a small window which he broke open. Captain Stark then had to remove his mask and attempt to breath outside air while smoke was pouring through the window. The window was too small for self-extrication, but he was able to call for help to the fire fighters on the street below. Upon seeing Captain Stark in distress, Fire Fighters Ryan Currie and Dan Coulter immediately, entered the building and made their way to the fire room. Currie and Coulter found Captain Stark and then quickly and professionally extricated him back through the fire and out of the building to safety – a selfless act by both, deserving of recognition.


Honor Award

Unlike the Merit or Valor Awards, which are given when there’s little or no threat to the fire fighter’s life, the Award of Honor is given for an act of bravery performed under life-threatening conditions. This award is usually one of the most prestigious awards a fire department bestows, given when fire fighters have knowingly risked their own lives to perform outstanding acts. The following fire fighter(s) earned this award in 2012:

Anthony Hockenhull & Harley Hakanen - for assisting in the extraction of an occupant trapped in a vehicle which was under water on May 26, 2010. Hockenhull and Hakanen donned emersion suits and swam approximately 60 feet out from shore to the submerged vehicle. They then positioned themselves on the roof of the vehicle. Standing on the roof, they were in waist deep water. The vehicle itself was in approximately 10 feet of water. Using the roof rack as an anchor they attempted to reach a door latch but were unsuccessful. They then used a center punch to break out several windows, taking turns to perform this task because of the depth of the water. Hockenhall made a sweep of the vehicle through the broken windows, made contact with the victim and together Hockenhull and Hakanen pulled the victim out through a window. They then were both pulled to shore while holding on to the victim who was then handed over to paramedics.

Both Hockenhull and Hakanen had considerable water leaks into the emersion suits, completely soaking both individuals with freezing cold Lake Superior water; however they never faltered in the completion of the rescue. Both fire fighters adapted to a difficult and unusual extrication situation, but had they not done so the victim of this incident would not be alive today.

Jon Swaggert - for performance as the Incident Commander during the extraction of an occupant trapped in a vehicle which was under water on May 26, 2010. Acting District Chief Swaggert established and maintained Command at the marina during a dramatic water rescue. Acting DC Swaggert directed and supervised the men under his command to ensure the rescue was conducted safely and effectively. That the victim was successfully rescued is a testament to the men performing the rescue, backing up the primary rescue team and providing other vital support; and that the rescue was conducted in a most professional manner is a testament to the on scene Command Officer, Acting District Chief Jon Swaggert.


Contact: Bill Johnson, Director of Training – Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, 625-3157 or