When Havelock firefighter Charlie Winter went into a burning home to look for a trapped child, he didn’t think about his own children.
"You just think about what you have to do," said the father of 9- and 11-year-old girls.
But after finding 2-year-old Dylan Burkett in a smoke-filled room and passing the child out of the burning home to rescue personnel, his thoughts turned.
"After that, you get a chance to reflect and it opens your eyes," he said. "Being a parent, I can’t imagine what it was like for them. I’m just glad it turned out the way it did."
Winter was presented a North Carolina golden life-saving medal during the Havelock Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night at Havelock City Hall.
"I think it’s a bit much. I didn’t think it was warranted," Winter said of receiving the medal, the first one ever presented to a Havelock firefighter. "We don’t go out looking for things like this, but it is appreciated."
The fire started on the morning of April 23 in the front part of the house. Though Father William Burkett managed to get one son, 3-year-old Little Will, out of the house, Dylan was napping in a back bedroom and couldn’t be reached.
As fire crews arrived, the front of the house was fully engulfed in flames.
"There was a lot of fire," Havelock Fire Chief Rick Zaccardelli said. "There was heavy flame involvement. The whole front of the house was fully involved. The front two rooms of the house were fully involved with fire."
Winter went to the side of the house where a police officer and a worker from A&M Body Shop lifted him through a window. Winter couldn’t see with the heavy smoke but heard the child crying. He followed the sound and found the boy on a bed. He passed the young boy through the window to firefighter Megan Lashway, who carried him to an ambulance.
"The important thing here is that Charlie didn’t hesitate," Zaccardelli said. "He acted bravely. From the time the alarm went in until the time we had the baby in the back of the ambulance was nine minutes. That’s pretty impressive."
Havelock News reporter/photographer Drew C. Wilson captured the scene, and his pictures of the rescue played on a large screen as Winter received his medal.
"The first thing a fireman learns when they come in the fire service, your job is to save lives and to protect property, in that order, and that’s exactly what took place," Zaccardelli said.
Three A&M Body Shop workers, Chad Mattern, Chuck Waldow and Rick Ruder, were also honored with Public Expression of Gratitude proclamations from the city. They ran from the business to the home on nearby Pineview Street, with Mattern attempting to put out the fire with a pair of extinguishers. Waldow shut off the propane gas, tried to move the family van and also tried to get inside to save the child. Ruder also tried to get inside and moved various obstacles out of the way, clearing a path for firefighters.
Dylan Burkett spent two days in the hospital receiving treatment for smoke inhalation. The family lost everything in the fire, which destroyed the house. The family attended the presentation, with Dylan sporting a nice shirt and tie.
"Seeing Dylan playing around, it was a good feeling," Winter said. "Honestly, that was the best part of the whole night."
During the presentation of the medal, Zaccardelli choked back tears.
"We’re proud of Charlie. We’re proud of the whole department," he said. "The outcome could have been so much worse. I’ve been down that road here in Havelock, having people pass on in fires, and when you get a save like that, it should be recognized."