All Jason Germain wanted was a hero’s kiss from his wife.
To be honoured by the Red Deer Emergency Services for saving another man’s life on April 29 was just a bonus.
Steve Gailloux, Red Deer Emergency Services fire prevention officer, said Germain acted selflessly and courageously to do something most people would do –– run into a burning home to save someone they barely knew.
“The guy was sleeping so he would have died if Jason had not come in and got him out,” said Gailloux. “I don’t recommend people going in without personal protection equipment or not wearing the proper gear. However, it did save this guy’s life. That is why we want to recognize the bravery and courage of Jason.”
Germain was presented with an award on Tuesday for saving Joe Szara, 67, his next door neighbour, from his burning home in Mustang Acres.
“Preservation of human life,” said Germain, who said he’s a little embarrassed with all the attention.
“They are the kind of guys who would open their windows and chat us up while we read our newspapers. They are neighbours, right? You just do what you have to do.”
Around 7 p.m. on April 29, Germain and his wife, Stephanie, were watching television when they heard a fire alarm ringing. When the sound did not stop after a few minutes, Stephanie sent her husband outside to investigate.
Germain, 39, saw smoke and flames coming from Szara’s windows. Without hesitation, Germain went into action. He yelled for his wife to call 911. He ran to the back of Szara’s house, which is divided from his with a fence, to bang and stomp on the back door.
“One of the cars was there so I knew somebody was home,” said Germain. “The front door was locked. I pounded on it. I was yelling because I could actually hear the burning. Thick, thick black smoke was leaking out of the door … I was just about to take the glass panel out to try to unlock the front door when Joe came to the door. He was just out of it … he was like a zombie.”
Szara was taken out of harm’s way while Germain went in to make sure the other person who lived there wasn’t in the burning trailer. Germain ran inside and dropped on his hands and knees.
“I was trying to make my way down the long hallway so I could do whatever I could to confirm he wasn’t there,” said Germain. “I crawled on my hands and knees and got as far as I could. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t see any light from the fire. When I came around the hallway, the doorway was engulfed in flames and the heat was so intense it kinda smacked me in the face and said, turn around. By then I was feeling confident he wasn’t there and I did whatever I could.”
Along with another neighbour, Germain tried to fight the fire with fire extinguishers and a water hose. The emergency crews arrived shortly after.
Szara said his memory is a little foggy about that night. He said he was home alone watching television when he dozed off. The next thing he remembered was the sound of pounding on the door.
Szara said he would like to thank Germain for being his lifesaver.
“I woke up and I couldn’t see anything because of the smoke,” said Szara, who is visiting his daughter in Lloydminster this week. “Somehow I managed to get to the front door and he dragged me out … it was the alarm Jason heard.”
Szara’s home is now unlivable. He is staying at a hotel until he finds a new place to live.
Gailloux said in the last 15 years, they have only recognized four people for their bravery.
He noted that the working smoke alarm initiated the rescue.
“There was a working smoke alarm,” said Gailloux. “It did go off and somebody did hear it. Even if the occupant didn’t hear it, the neighbour heard it and saved his life.”
And Germain did get his kiss.
“It was a good one, too,” he laughed. “Just like in the movies. That’s all I wanted.”