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By Devese “Dee” Ursery
Collinsville Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Warner was awarded the Firefighter’s Medal of Honor from the Illinois State Fire Marshal.
Warner, a 21-year veteran of the Collinsville Fire Department was honored for his bravery on May 9, in a ceremony at the annual Firefighter’s Medal of Honor Ceremony. The event took place at the state’s Capitol in Springfield.
The Firefighter Medal of Honor is the highest honor given out by the state to a firefighter for an act of outstanding bravery or heroism. Warner was recognized for his part in the water rescue of a woman submerged in her vehicle back in February of 2022.
“I didn’t think the rescue was on that level to warrant such a high award,” Warner said.
When asked how it felt after finding out that he would receive the Medal of Honor he replied, “Humbled.”
Warner said that he was in disbelief when got the news from a co-worker that he would be getting the medal of honor award.
“I thought he was messing with me,” Warner continued.
Warner said he was accompanied to the medal of honor ceremony by his family. He said that his wife had to remind him to appreciate the moment and respect the award.
“I was just not completely comfortable with such a big fuss over just doing my job,” Warner said.
Warner explained the dispatched call from his perspective, thinking it was a prank. Minutes later upon arriving at the scene, he observed how dire the situation was.
“When the call came in I thought it was a joke,” Warner said. “When I arrived on the scene and I saw the car and the officer beating on the driver’s side window, I thought oh crap.”
Warner said that he smashed the window with a New Hook, a long metal pole firefighters use mostly for rooftop operations including vertical and horizontal ventilation, pulling and prying.
“Once the window was broken and I reached in to open the door, I yelled for her to take my arm,” Warner said.“She did so and I pulled her up.”
Warner said that once he reached the woman, she had a look of relief but was still frightened and cold from the below freezing temperatures of the pond.
Warner recounted one of the most memorable calls that he has been on when he and his partner resuscitated a 2-year old toddler after almost drowning in a bathtub. During emergency situations, Warner said that he tries to slow down his breathing and then take a second to assess the situation. “The victim/patient is upset enough; it’s my job to not make that worse,” he continued.
The office of the ISFM established the memorial and medal of honor awards ceremony 19 years ago to pay tribute to and recognize men and women in a dangerous profession protecting the public.
“The medal of honor is the highest award given to a firefighter for an act of outstanding bravery and heroism, by which the firefighter has demonstrated in great degree the characteristics of selflessness and personal courage above and beyond the call of duty, under adverse conditions, with the possibility of risk,” according to a statement from the ISFM.
Warner became inspired to become a firefighter/paramedic after his sister suffered a serious head injury from a car accident that left her in a coma for four months. He said he wanted to get a better understanding of the medical terms the doctors were using so he enrolled into an EMT class to educate himself.
“After passing my EMT class, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Warner said.
Warner admitted that every good firefighter needs to be a little crazy. He said a firefighter also has to be able to absorb a lot of negative and gruesome things emotionally and still look forward to coming to work.
Warner has a nephew that has recently graduated from the fire academy at the University of Illinois and is now working as a firefighter.
Warner said that on occasion people from the community would stop by the station to personally thank them for treating them. He said the most important aspect of his job is presentation, looking the part. Warner added that acting in a professional manner and letting the community know that you are there for them.
“We live for the job, but unfortunately sometimes family and friends get the blunt end of it,” Warner said.”Our personal time is spent trying to put the job far behind us. Then we do it all over again.”