A heroism award was the last thing on Brian Stefani’s mind when he rushed into a burning building in 2013 or even last Friday when the Webster School principal was busy with his daily duties.
Yet somehow organizers managed to gather students, staff and Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue Chief Terry Martin into the school’s gymnasium for a surprise presentation.
Stefani was honoured with a Certificate of Commendation for his quick thinking and bravery when rescuing an elderly man during a November 2013 house fire.
The ceremony caught the humbled Stefani off guard.
“I had no idea, not until I got to the front of the gymnasium and (Martin) started to come up to the front too,” he said. “They caught me totally by surprise.”
Recalling the 2013 fire, Stefani admitted there was no hesitation when he made the decision to go into a burning home and provide life-saving help.
“I didn’t think twice.”
Back on November 28, 2013, Stefani was pulling into his driveway in Rossland when he heard a smoke alarm going off at one of his neighbour’s homes. After locating the house the noise was coming from, Stefani found a young boy standing outside.
“I realized something was wrong when I saw a boy standing in the road and then realized where the smoke detector noise was coming from,” he said, retelling his experience on the evening of the fire. “I made sure that he had called 911. I then asked him if there was anybody else in the house. He told me his grandfather was in there and that is when I ran up to the house to help.”
The kitchen door was inaccessible due to flames and smoke, so Stefani tried another point of entry.
“Brian found a window on the side of the house, which was the grandfather’s bedroom window,” said Chief Martin about the incident.
“They grabbed a ladder and he climbed up to the window and was able to assist the grandfather out of the window and down the ladder. It was discovered later, that after that point, the room was engulfed in flames.”
Stefani says he doesn’t see the rescue as an act of bravery. Ever the educator, he said he was just following the lessons staff teach the students at Webster Elementary – the Three Rs.
“Respect yourself, respecting others and respecting property,” he said. “I tell them I expect it of the students, but I also live it myself. For the younger kids, we teach them about looking after themselves and each other. I was just looking out for somebody else.”
When Chief Martin reached out to the Fire Commissioner of British Columbia, all agreed that this was the right time to award a Certificate of Commendation for his courageous efforts.
“In our opinion, Brian’s actions saved the grandfather’s life,” said Martin.