Paris City Council honors police dispatcher, firefighters for saving woman trapped in burning residence

Police Chief Bob Hundley is shown with veteran dispatcher Ton Foreman as Mayor A.J. Hashmi (right) looks on. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Police Chief Bob Hundley is shown with veteran dispatcher Tony Foreman as Mayor A.J. Hashmi (right) looks on. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

A police dispatcher and several firefighters came in for special commendation Monday night from the Paris City Council for collaborating to rescue a woman trapped in a burning house.

  • Tony Foreman, who has worked as a dispatcher with the Paris Police Department for 18 years, was presented the Lifesaver Award for staying on the phone with Leticia Cole, getting to firefighters information they needed.
  • Capt. James Dority and firefighters Heath Humphrey and Trey Unruh were presented the Distinguished Service Medal for fighting their way through the fire to find and pull the woman, who by then was unconscious, out of the burning structure.
  • Eleven other members of the fire department were presented a Unit Citation for their work at the scene, assisting in the rescue efforts and extinguishing the fire — Deputy Chief Jerry Horton, driver/engineer Danny Jennings, Capt. Billy McDowell, Capt. Kevin Wood, driver/engineer Shon Liles, firefighter Cody Walters, firefighter Darren Lane, Capt. Randy Showers, driver/engineer Drew Boren, firefighter Justin Hicks, and firefighter Bryan Whittaker.
About half the city council chambers was filled with firefighters adding their own tribute to the recognition. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

About half the city council chambers was filled with firefighters adding their own tribute to the recognition. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Paris firefighters overfilled the council chambers, showing up in full dress regalia to add their own recognition of the recognition being given their colleagues.

Foreman, 40, fielded a 9-1-1 call about noon on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, from a woman who said her residence at 1149 6th St. NE was on fire, and she was trapped in a back room.

Foreman immediately dispatched the fire department to the fire, which was about a half mile south and east of the city’s main fire station.

“Protocol would have been to hang up, but Foreman kept her on the phone, found out where she was in the house, and told her to get low, beneath the smoke,” Police Chief Bob Hundley said.

Within two minutes of the call, firefighters were on the scene.

Tony and Jerra Foreman with their son, Will.

Tony and Jerra Foreman with their son, Will.

While enroute, Fire Chief Larry Wright said, Foreman alerted firefighters that there was a trapped occupant in the house, located about one block south of Martin Luther King Drive.

“She had told the dispatcher what part of the house she was in, and he relayed it to the fire crew. He kept her on the line until she actually went unconscious,” Wright said.

By the time firefighters arrived, they had also been informed by Foreman that the woman was now unconscious in a back room of the residence.

Dority and Humphrey deployed a hose line and entered the structure, extinguishing flames as they made their way to the woman in a back bedroom.

Meanwhile, Unruh was breaking through an exterior door at the back of the house.

“The doorway was blocked with a dresser and television and other furniture, so they literally had to physically breach that door to get entry. They didn’t want to drag her out through the fire,” Wright said.”Dority and Humphrey quickly located the unconscious Ms. Cole and moved her to the doorway that Unruh was breaching,” Wright told the council.

At least two more firefighters and two police officers and EMS personnel assisted in getting Cole medical treatment. She was taken to the emergency room of Paris Regional Medical Center for smoke inhalation and later was transferred to a Dallas hospital.

crowd2How dispatchers handle 9-1-1 calls “has a very real impact on how the emergency services respond to the call,” Hundley said.

“The dispatchers in the 9-1-1 center are like the hub of a wheel. The call comes to them first and goes out the spokes to the emergency services,” the police chief added.

“Foreman did an outstanding job with the victim during the call. He maintained the connection with her, found out she was unable to get out of the house, identified where she was in the house, relayed that information to the responding firefighters, and talked her into getting close to the floor and under the smoke,” Hundley said.

crowd1“The victim stopped responding to him just a minute or so before the firemen were able to reach her and get her out,” Hundley said. “The stress that these dispatchers face every day when they have someone on the phone who is imminent peril is unbelievable.”

Council members praised everyone involved in the rescue.

“This makes me proud that I live in Paris,” an emotional City Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said. “I cannot say thank you enough.”

“Thank you for what you do,” City Councilman John Wright said.

“We’re very proud of you,” City Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said.

 By Charles Richards, eParisExtra


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About the Author

Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.